Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Pasquarelli.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Maria. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The short answer is that I had a kid and everything changed.
It’s a funny thing, I always felt like kids wouldn’t change my focus in life (I was working in the creative field – acting, directing, producing), but as time went on, it was as if my passion was shifting. For over a year, after my first child was born, I was working a lot creatively. At some point, though, I realized that I didn’t have the same joy, love, excitement for that work.
As I began to lose interest in the creative world, I noticed that I LOVED to talk about all things pregnancy, birth and parenting. Among my friends in the LA area, I was one of the first to have a child. Time and time again, friends would be calling or texting me asking for input, advice, or just an ear. Asking about baby sleeping, nursing issues (either for themselves or their spouses), taking baby out into the world, etc. For a second, I considered having a podcast, but I really wanted to do something more permanent, more hands-on.
I knew pretty quickly that I really wanted to become a lactation consultant. I have been very lucky and have had wonderful experiences as a nursing mother, but I had great help in the beginning when it was hard. I felt supported at all times in my journey – by my husband, my friends, my family and the community. Not once did I feel judged, never did a person say a rude word to me or give me a rude look – even while nursing a toddler in public. But I had heard so many stories from other mothers. Stories of struggling to nurse, being judged and harassed, feeling overwhelmed, insecure and like a failure. My desire was to help these mothers. To encourage them. To educate them. To help them succeed.
The process of becoming a lactation consultant, for me, is going to be a bit of long journey. Since I studied theater, I need to take a lot of classes before I can even start to study/train to become a lactation consultant. So, about two years ago, I started registering for classes and I’m doing my best, with two kids, to stay on top of that pursuit. But then, a little less than a year ago, I was looking around online and stumbled upon the DONA website. I read up on postpartum doulas and the process to become one and I knew it was going to be a part of my journey. So, I signed up for a training and dove in!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As any parent (especially of young children) will tell you, nothing is a smooth road when you have little ones! Every day is exhausting and exhilarating. Finding the time to get ANYTHING done is a constant struggle.
The biggest challenges for me are finding the time to continue to take classes towards becoming a lactation consultant and finding the energy to do the classwork once I sign up.
As a newer postpartum doula, generating work for myself is also a challenge. To be perfectly honest, many people don’t even know what a postpartum doula is, so part of finding clients has also been educating people as to what I do and why they might want or need my services. A lot more people know what a birth doula is and understand why one would be needed. But the word “postpartum” itself is completely misunderstood – I get a lot of comments like, “oh that’s so hard that you work with depressed people”, or “are you a therapist?”. The word has become synonymous with depression and while perinatal mental health issues are very serious and real, postpartum, literally, just means the time period after birth!
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a postpartum doula, my main focus is to provide support and educate parents. I like to think of it as making sure everyone is eating, sleeping, and getting what they need. In our society, once the baby is born (and even when the mother is pregnant), the focus is all about baby. When parents bring home a new baby, everyone wants to see the baby, hold the baby, know how the baby is sleeping, etc. The parents are overlooked.
In the past, we lived closer to extended family and had a built-in support system when we went through life-changing events like bringing home a new baby. Today, and especially in Los Angeles, we are so far removed from that support system.
My goal is to be that support for the family.
Personally, as a postpartum doula, what I love MOST is preparing food for families, helping older siblings adjust to new babies, and getting parents to trust their instincts.
In addition to being support in the home once baby has arrived, I also offer prenatal consultations and birth processing. During a prenatal consultation, I can help parents chose items for their registry, teach some baby care basics and help to set up the home for baby’s arrival. Birth processing is very close to my heart, so it is something I offer on a sliding scale. As part of my postpartum work, I process birth stories with parents, but I want this service to be available to everyone regardless of whether or not they hire a postpartum doula. It’s an opportunity to just talk through their birth story – happy, sad, frustrating, angry, miraculous, painful – whatever it may be. My first birth was very traumatizing. In the beginning, it was painful to talk about it, but over time, the more I told the story, I was able to come to terms with what had happened and find peace.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Doula work and parenting is all about listening. Listen with your eyes, ears, body and intuition.
- Phone: 213-840-4859
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @mariapdoula
- Facebook: @mariapdoula
Michael Evans Lopez, Norman Anderson II