Empowering motherhood: with Ashley Sousa.

August 31, 2023

Our dear friend, Ashley Sousa, is a registered nurse, international board certified lactation consultant with over 10 years experience in labor, delivery and postpartum, and founder of Mother’s Haven, a helpful resource providing moms-to-be, and new mothers, with evidence-based, personalized care for navigating pregnancy and early motherhood. 

Here, she offers some useful advice for navigating that journey. Whether you’re expecting, caring for a newborn or have friends who are, we hope you find her answers empowering and forward this email to anyone who needs to hear some words of support and wisdom.

What is the biggest challenge you find new moms face?

Number one challenge that I feel new moms face is expectations. We all have this vision and likely expectations of what motherhood is going to look like and feel like for us and unfortunately reality rarely meets what we think our parenting journey will look and feel like. 

As a mom who has been through this myself I am constantly reminding my clients that it's ok if it doesn't feel as beautiful, wonderful, and easy as you thought it might or it doesn't play out the way you wanted it to. You and your baby are learning together and this learning curve is steep. Some days may feel much easier than others and that is part of the journey. You are allowed to grieve the birth you thought you'd have, the feeding journey you thought you'd have, the relationship you thought you'd have! 

What’s your best advice for soon-to-be moms? And for new moms?

My biggest piece of advice is ask for help and use your resources. Find providers who you feel supported by, call your insurance company before baby is born to see what services are covered, work with an IBCLC if your goal is to breastfeed (some states are now covering doula services whether its during delivery or postpartum), and remember, asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness! We aren't meant to be on this journey alone! Educating yourself is a powerful move, whether you're expecting or newly postpartum! Lean into your mom friends and find a support group. Having people by your side who are on this journey with you is unmatched! 

Why is early education so important for parents-to-be during the first and second trimester?

Education is so important because it will allow you and your partner to feel confident, ask the questions that feel important to you, and advocate for yourself when necessary! I truly believe knowledge is power and watching my clients go from afraid or overwhelmed about parenthood to educated and confident is by far one of my favorite parts of my job! If you're looking for help and don't know where to start I always recommend reaching out to me via email at ashley@mothers-haven.com and I can help create a pregnancy and/or postpartum plan that is catered to you and your goals! 

There’s so much information (or mis-information) out there. How do you help parents sort through it all?

All of the information available today can be so overwhelming and there is SO much mis-information out there! My goal is to provide evidence-based information that is easy to digest and fun! I help parents sort through it all by providing them with resources that are fact based, help answer questions, and discern from misinformation and information that is helpful and accurate. I always remind my clients: if they're looking for guidance on something then reach out to a provider who is qualified in that area vs. searching for answers on their mommy facebook group! My DMs are always open on Instagram. Follow along @mothers_haven_ 

Any tips for dad on how best he can support her during pregnancy and the first days, weeks and months?

Tell her she looks beautiful and she's doing an incredible job, learn with her and be aware of what her goals are, jump in and help, advocate for her, and remember that your significant other may have some challenging days, weeks, and months ahead—it is nothing against you! 

Also, oftentimes I find that husbands/partners are the first to recognize signs and symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression so knowing the signs of this is super important and reaching out for help with her is also so important. Instead of being upset, frustrated, or discouraged, please advocate for her and help her get the support and love she deserves! You are a team and oftentimes it's easy to lose sight of that in what I call the pregnancy and postpartum fog! 

What about friends? Any tips for supporting their pregnant and postpartum friends?

As a mom who had her first child before any of her friends, I found it hard because of course, if you haven't been through it before how can you begin to understand? I felt isolated, lonely, and sad at times for missing out and feeling like I wasn't understood by my friends. For me, finding a support group with moms who were all in it with me was HUGE! However, if you are a mom, and your friend just had a baby then just show up. Drop a coffee on the front porch, send a text message to check in with her, ask her how she's doing, send food, go over and help her. Whether it's by taking out the trash, walking the dog, holding the baby so mom can shower in peace, or providing a listening ear. 

In your opinion, what’s the most overlooked aspect of self care for new moms?

Self-care doesn't need to be a day at the spa! Self-care changes when you become a mom and self-care may be something as simple as a walk to start your day, meeting your friend for a cup of coffee, moving your body for 30 minutes, or asking for help with your baby so you can take a nap in the middle of the day. 

I remember after a tough week with my daughter my mom just showed up at my house and told me to go. She didn't care where I went, she just said "be home before the next feeding in 3 hours." I left my house, grabbed a coffee, and walked through the aisles of Marshalls and Home Goods for two-and-a-half fours and could have cried over how good it felt to be free of a barnacle baby who was held for a week straight and just have some time to myself. This is self-care as a mama! 

I also think the guilt we feel when we take time for ourselves is HARD! I never thought I'd feel guilty leaving my baby to have some time to myself and yet this was how I felt for the first year of my baby's life! It gets easier I promise Mama, you're doing amazing!

For more visit https://www.mothers-haven.com/