Presenter interviews

Meet Melanie, perinatal physiotherapist

Melanie and fam.jpg

Name: Melanie Stevens Sutherland

Workshop: Trimester 2 Stream: Birth and your Pelvic Floor 

Why did you become a perinatal physiotherapist?
Despite being a physiotherapist for years, I was absolutely awed of the capabilities of the human body through my own experience of pregnancy. I was also disappointed at the lack of physical and emotional care I was offered postnatally. As I struggled through my own recovery I knew I could do better for others and ultimately shifted my business model to support parents, through services and excellent practitioners, from conception to recovery.

How did you choose your care team for your birth?
I am a cervical cancer survivor, and as such was sent to the high risk program at Sunnybrook hospital for the birth of my daughter. My daughter ended up failing to thrive in the end stages of my pregnancy and I developed preeclampsia which resulted in an emergency induction. When I was pregnant with my son, although I was not treated as high risk, because of my history we decided to go with a hospital birth and an OB-GYN again. I would have loved to have experienced other birthing professionals, but was very lucky to have two excellent doctors who were very caring and did a wonderful job guiding us through what at the time felt overwhelming and scary, and was ultimately most comfortable with our choice for our situation.

What was your most useful gadget/tool/item for parenting?
I’m not sure there was one gadget that was really the be all and end all for me. If anything I think I learned through my first pregnancy that I required a lot less than I believed I needed pre-baby. The one thing I’ve used consistently with both my kids has been a carrier. It is functional, and I love how close I feel to my kids when using it.

What excites you most about presenting at 4 Trimesters’ conference?
The prospect of sharing education on pelvic floor is very exciting. Many people are not comfortable talking about their pelvic floor let alone becoming acquainted with it but it is such an integral system for almost everything we do. In North America, we are quite far behind in this area, and we need to start getting comfortable with these discussions.

To join Melanie for her workshop at this October's conference, register here.

Meet Emma Rohmann, environmental engineer and eco-health expert


WORKSHOP: TRIMESTER 1 STREAM: Detox your home before baby

What's your best advice when it comes to choosing healthy,  non-toxic baby products? 
Turn the packaging over and dig a little deeper. So much of what we're told on the front of packaging is just marketing. Terms like non-toxic and eco-friendly aren't regulated, so they often don't mean much. I love supporting local businesses, where I know what I'm getting is quality. But when that's not possible, always turn the package around and find out what's in a product - often packages will hide what's in by focusing on what's not in a product.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your own pregnancy and birth?
From very early on in my first pregnancy, I learned to let go. I was no longer in charge, and I couldn't really control what happened. Sure, I could make healthy choices and read up on what fruit my daughter was the size of each week, but she called the shots. When she arrived 3.5 weeks early, I really knew who was boss. As a fairly organized and plan-obsessed person, this was a hard adjustment. But it has changed me for the better in ways I never thought possible. I think it's made me more resilient and flexible, while still wanting to give my best to my kids - even if my best leaves a lot of room for improvement (and let's be honest, nobody's perfect!).

What's the thing you wish all new (or expectant) parents knew more about?
Like many expectant parents, my awareness of chemicals in products increased dramatically when I was pregnant. I wish everyone knew more about the impact of chemicals in everyday products have on our health - and how it doesn't have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming to choose healthier products! Babies are most susceptible to health effects of these chemicals, and we as parents can help set them up for long-term health by choosing better products and making simple changes at home.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I love sharing knowledge that will help make people's lives healthier, and better. I stressed myself out SO MUCH when researching healthy, non-toxic products for my kids and I don't want others to go through that. I'm excited to share strategies and have conversations to help move expectant parents from overwhelm to empowered to create a healthy space for their baby! 



Meet Kelly Maslen, birth doula and holistic nutritionist

KM w Ella.jpg


What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy?
Don't listen to negative birth stories. They will influence your birth experience, and create fear around pregnancy and birth.

How did you chose your care team for your birth?
My midwives were a team I had worked with at previous births as a doula. The doulas who attended my birth where my dear good friends. I felt I needed two doulas because as a single parent I didn't have the extra support from a partner.

What's the thing about birth that amazes you the most?
Birth is a transformative, humbling, and empowering experience that will inspire you like nothing else. It helps if you can let go and trust the process. Birthing gives you an opportunity to love a human like you have never loved before. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I'm looking forward to meeting pregnant parents that are eager to learn how they can gain skills and information that will lead to an empowering and fun birth experience.


Meet Megan Tasker, childbirth educator, birth doula, and yoga instructor




What's your favourite thing to snack on or drink at a birth?When I'm supporting a client at a birth I pack a pretty big snack bag, in case the birth is long. I try to have a homemade meal that I froze, a protein bar, juice box, apple and almonds are my go to. But depending on the hospital I get excited about different local food places that I can nip out to during the day to grab some of my favourite snacks - it's different at every hospital!

What's something that you think there's too much attention on the birth world?
Dilation! We live in a very cervix/dilation centred birth culture. And although the cervix opening is very important, part of what helps that cervix open is the choices we make to cope, positions we choose, and where baby is at. If baby isn't in a good position, the cervix will have more challenges to open than if baby is optimally positioned.

What's the thing you wish all new parents knew more about?
That nothing is permanent and everything changes. That as soon as you think you just found baby's routine, it'll change on you. And that this is totally normal. Especially when it comes to infant sleep. We live in a relatively well-scheduled culture, we always say that birth is the last frontier of unpredictability, but it's not just birth, it's child-rearing as well. The more you expect things to change, or to be unpredictable, the easier it is to adapt to these changes.

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The same thing that excites me about being birth workers. There is such an incredible community of birth workers in Toronto and so much incredible knowledge, and for us all to be in one place for the community to tap into is pretty exciting. To work alongside, and to connect with so many incredible people, is humbling and an absolute privilege. 



Meet Olivia Scobie, perinatal and parenting therapist, and birth doula



What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
I like to give my pregnant friends something to pamper themselves in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Often they will receive adorable baby clothes or baby equipment as gifts, so my goal is to give them something just for them. My go to right now is the Tenth Moon Essential Package. It has homemade granola, a lavender mineral soak, herbal sitz baths - and all sorts of lovely things. I have ordered four this year already! 

What was the first thing you ate after giving birth?
I don't remember the first thing I ate after I gave birth for the first time, but I do remember that after I left the hospital I stopped at a diner because after not eating for about three days, I was HUNGRY and knew I didn't have much food at home. I ordered the 'farmers' breakfast with pancakes, homefries, sausage, eggs, toast, and fruit and ate every last bite. I still remember it as one of the most satisfying meals of my life. 

What's your best advice when it comes to the postpartum?
Everything changes. Just when you think you got this whole parenting thing figured out, you will find yourself facing a new challenge. And thankfully, just when you think you don't know how you are going to get through the days, something suddenly clicks and you know you are going to be okay. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I could talk about early parenting and postpartum mood pretty much all day long. Usually my friends and family listen kindly but without a lot of interest, so I'm pretty pumped to hang out with expectant parents who want to talk about it with me :) 


Meet Janet Walker, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and Restorative Exercise Specialist



What's the thing about pregnancy and birth that amazes you the most?
That another human being can develop from the union of 2 single cells. It's incredible! I love studying embryology and how the body structures and systems develop. And how intra-uterine life, and birth, affect us. On a physical, emotional and psychosocial level. When I'm treating, I consider all that - parent, baby, and relationship - pre- or post-natally.  

What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy and alignment?
Aches, pains and the stereotypical 'waddle' may be common, but they're not natural. They're often a sign of an underlying alignment issue; please don't ignore them. Your body is designed to walk and move regularly, even during pregnancy. Lack of natural movement contributes to many prenatal aches and pains. And they can make birthing more difficult. Make an effort to move more!

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
ME! I'm happy to provide hands-on help for breastfeeding or other newborn concerns. I make some pretty tasty muffins and easy-to-reheat meals too.

What's the thing you wish all new (or expectant) parents knew more about?  
Newborn life. It's not easy transitioning from the womb to the outside world. Lying still and alone is stressful. Empathize. Your baby wants to hang out with you - snuggle on your bare chest, share a bath, or enjoy a gentle massage. And move - walk, dance, sway and rock. It's what they're used to. Take the time to understand their needs. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The diverse group of presenters! It's a unique opportunity to gather knowledge and build a support network. Of course, I'm excited about my part too - sharing how alignment can empower you at any stage.




Meet Ruth Ruttan, birth doula, infant sleep educator and pilates instructor


Name: Ruth Ruttan

Workshop: Trimester 3 stream: The Art & Science of Infant Sleep

What's the thing about pregnancy and/or birth that amazes you the most?
There are SO many amazing things about pregnancy & birth! I'm amazed that so many people can experience pregnancy in so many unique ways- no two pregnancies are the same. As for birth, whether it's at home, birth centre, hospital, if it's unmedicated, or with an epidural or a Caesarean birth, it is amazing to watch the strength, power and the courage that new parents find to birth their babies. We need to be kind to ourselves. There needs to be grace. Even when birth is 'easy', it's not easy! 

What's your best advice when it comes to pregnancy or being a new parent? 
Everyone has an opinion about your pregnancy, birth and parenting... Respect your intuition and educate yourself. There is a wide range or 'normal' and 'safe'. Figure out where you fit on that spectrum and make it work for you, your baby and your family! 

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
A doula! (often as a group gift!)
Good Food! I like to help set up meal trains for friends or give gift certificates to prepared meal delivery services. 
I also think a stretchy wrap or SleepBelt is a lifesaver for most new parents. 

What was the first thing you ate after giving birth?
I don't remember what I ate after my first birth, but I know the first thing I asked for was my lip balm! After my second, we all sat down to a big pasta dinner that my dad whipped up. 
And with number three, all five of us sat in our bed and ate salt and vinegar chips at 3am (well, not the baby!).

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I'm really looking forward to being in community with other amazing educators, but even more so with our attendees! It's a huge opportunity, not only share what I do, but learn from each unique pregnancy to parenthood journey.



Meet Rhondda Smiley, doula, breastfeeding educator and yoga instructor


Name: Rhondda Smiley

Workshop: Trimester 4 stream: 
Expectations, Frustrations & Success: staying sane and happy as a parent

What's your best advice when it comes to labour and birth?
Keep upright, keep moving, keep breathing, as much as you are able. Use gravity and gentle movement to support the work your body and baby are doing together. Even if you choose an epidural, there are ways to keep your hips and your options open! As a doula who's spent a lifetime training in movement practices such as yoga and dance, I bring a creative approach to supporting you in positions and movement that will keep your body, breath, mind and heart open. 

What's the most important thing you learned from your own experience of becoming a parent?
I learned the hard way to let go of the illusion of control! When I was trying to conceive, I naively thought I'd be able to book my pregnancy around vacations and rush times at work. Ha! My ovaries had other ideas. I thought I'd spend nine months of pregnancy blissfully feeling like a fecund goddess, only to find my head in a toilet with "morning sickness" for the first five. My birth ended up being a total 180 degrees from what I planned. I wanted to birth at home, but my baby ended up needing an emergency cesarean before I'd even gone into labour. And you can be sure the surprises didn't stop once my daughter was born. Breastfeeding challenges, postpartum depression, needing surgery when I was supposed to return to work... In the moments when I could remember to let go of the notion that I could control the situation, and surrender to how they actually were, being a parent became so much easier -- and happier. Someone once said, "make plans and God laughs". To that I'd add, "make plans when you have kids and God is LMAOROTF". 

What's something you wish more expectant parents knew?
I wish that new parents who want to breastfeed knew better what to expect once their baby is here. How to know if their baby is actually taking in milk during a nursing session. How often a newborn baby needs to feed (hint: every 3 hours is not enough for newborns). Where to find effective, expert help if things are not going smoothly. I wish expectant parents could spend time around other breastfeeding parents before their birth, because we've largely lost one of the most important ways we have to learn this skill -- through watching other parent-baby dyads doing it. I know now how much easier nursing my daughter could have been if I'd been better prepared. It was my desire to help save other parents this grief that motivated me, 13 years ago, to become a La Leche League Leader (mother-to-mother breastfeeding counselor, since retired). I'm committed to sharing my lactation knowledge and expertise with my doula clients who want to breastfeed, so that they have realistic expectations and feel prepared and confident in feeding their new baby. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
The other presenters at 4T are my birth heroes! I'm totally stoked to be in the company of these kind and expert professionals. These are the people I respect enough to refer my doula and yoga clients to. These are the people that I've entrusted to care for my family and myself. 


Meet Tynan Rhea, doula, sex educator and counselor


Name: Tynan Rhea
Workshop: Trimester 4 Stream: Pleasure after Kids

What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
Sex-positive sex ed books for kids or body-positive puberty books for kids that are transgender and non-binary gender identity conscious. There is an amazing library of kids book on the Come As You Are website. I could thumb through those books for hours! Sometimes even I learn a thing or two, and I think about sex all the time. 

What's something that you think there's too much attention on the birth world?
When penetrative sex starts happening again. If you look at the scientific research on sexuality postpartum the vast majority are obsessed with when people start having penetrative sex again and whether or not it's painful. This is also reflected in the articles I read online and it's super disheartening: why aren't we talking about pleasure? Sex is so much more than penetration. Intimacy is so much more than sex. Relationships are more than just sex and intimacy. If sex isn't pleasurable, what's going on?

What's your best advice when it comes to sex postpartum?
Assuming you want to have sex (or want to want to again), finding the hotness in scheduled sex is a complete game changer. For a lot of folks that can sound like a lot of pressure, which is definitely not hot, but there's ways to work-up to it so that the anticipation of a sex date is exciting, not anxiety-provoking. Glenda Corwin described it best in her book Sexual Intimacy for Women: A guide for same-sex couples— when you first start dating someone, it might feel like you're having all kinds of spontaneous sex, but you're actually having loads of scheduled sex. You plan a date night, you think about it all week, you fantasize about what might happen, maybe you masturbate thinking about it, and then the day finally arrives and you've done all this foreplay leading up to it, and surprise, you have hot seemingly spontaneous sex. 

For postpartum folks it's not quite that simple. Breastfeeding, feeling touched out, sleep deprivation are all real and can definitely impact our energy for sex. But a lot of people think sex is spontaneous and now that they have a baby spontaneity goes out the window, ergo, sex goes out the window. If you want to have sex postpartum, this doesn't have to be the only story. 

If you don't want to have sex and you wish people would get off your back about it (literally?) that's a legitimate and valid choice too. If you have partners who want sex with you and you don't want it or vise versa, and you still want to stay together and make it work— that's something else entirely. My best advice for that scenario is finding a good sexual health counselor or couples therapist that is experienced in this area. 

What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference?
I love getting talk with people in person, I love talking about sex, and I love hearing people's stories about their personal journeys. I feel so privileged to be able to do the kind of work I do, and it's truly an honour that people would invite me into their lives during such a difficult time with such a loaded topic. I don't take that lightly, but I'm comfortable sitting in discomfort because I believe in the places it can take us. 

To attend Tynan's T4 workshop on October 28, sign up for the conference here

Meet Kira Liss, birth doula and yoga instructor

Kira setting up for a Parent and Baby class at  Yoga Village , with my kid, Juniper (9 months).

Kira setting up for a Parent and Baby class at Yoga Village, with my kid, Juniper (9 months).

Name: Kira Liss
workshop: Trimester 2 stream: Movement in Pregnancy 


What's the thing about pregnancy and/or birth that amazes you the most?
It's hard to narrow down because I generally think that pregnancy and birth are pure magic. But it's the placenta amazes me the most. It's incredible that the body is able to grow a completely new organ to feed and nourish a growing baby. Like, how cool is that?! 


What's your favourite thing to snack on at a birth?
I bring dark chocolate covered almonds with me to every birth. A source of protein and good fats, and a sugar boost. Not to mention that chocolate makes everything better, right?


What's your go-to gift for a friend having a baby?
A Moby wrap! It's my personal favourite option for babywearing because it's soft for newborns, and it's one-size-fits-all.


What excites you the most about being a presenter at 4 Trimesters first conference? 
The amazing group of presenters! I've worked with a lot of these practitioners in a variety of settings and feel that there is so much amazing knowledge and experience in this group of people. As the first of what will hopefully be an annual conference, I'm thrilled by the presenters that Jae has chosen.


To Attend Kira's 4T workshop, sign up for the conference here.