46. Informed Pregnancy Podcast – Ashley Greene
Elliot: Welcome to the Informed Pregnancy and Parenting Podcast. I'm your host, pregnancy-focused chiropractor, Dr. Elliot Berlin.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida with modeling aspirations, my guest today graduated high school early and moved to Los Angeles at age 17 to pursue acting. Shortly thereafter, she caught a breakout role in one of the original and most popular vampire film series of all time, the “Twilight Saga.” She cemented her A-list status with starring roles in the fight film series and the rest is history.
Inspired by her personal experience of coming off hormonal birth control and in conversation with her sister-in-law, she recently expanded her creative pursuits as co-founder of Hummingway, a company aimed at generating awareness and supporting women with whole cycle wellness tips and tools, including period pain relief products. She and her husband welcomed their first child just last month. I’m ecstatic to have her as my guest as we discuss career, activism, pregnancy, and childbirth, Ashley Greene. Welcome to the podcast.
Ashley: Hi! Thank you for having me.
Elliot: Oh, my goodness! Congratulations!
Ashley: Thank you! It is crazy. Six weeks ago, my life was completely different.
Elliot: Yeah, mine was about the same.
Ashley: Yours has always been exciting, though.
Elliot: It hasn’t changed that much. But actually, working with you is pretty exciting. You’re strong, energetic, very inspiring. Just one of those people that like I’m like, “I don’t think I need my Starbucks today.”
Ashley: Oh! Well, thank you. That makes me feel really good. Especially right now, the lack of sleep is a real thing.
Elliot: It’s the real deal.
Ashley: Yeah. I always wonder like, this is probably done to say that like on all those reality TV shows, I’m like, “Why are they so emotional, and why are they so crazy? Why do they make decisions like this?” And then, I had a child and realized that sleep deprivation is and what it does to you, and how it just shifts everything. And all of a sudden, you know, I spilled breast milk the other day and actually cried about it.
Ashley: Now, I understand how I am…
Elliot: Aw, “don’t cry over spilled milk.”
Ashley: I’m like, “No, don’t cry over it!” It’s a horrible thing.
Elliot: I have that once also. Actually, my son spilled milk and I cried over because it was the last little bit of milk there was enough for both of us to have cereal in our bowl. And he put milk in his cereal and the whole thing spilled out, and there’s no milk for my cereal. It’s not the same, but I always need a good cry.
Ashley: It’s true. It’s a frustrating, saddening thing. Especially in the morning, that’s all that you want.
Elliot: And we had no Instacart yet at that time. It was a whole hassle.
Ashley: Remember the days before you had any kind of Instacart or Uber Eats.
Elliot: Not really, actually. It’s like you know life has changed. Okay, let’s go to you. You grew up in Florida. How was that?
Ashley: Growing up in Florida. I don’t remember much of my childhood. My teen years was in Jacksonville, but when I was much younger I was in Middleburg. And we grew up like on a dirt road, and my dad built our house and it was just a very wholesome upbringing.
Elliot: Like literally built your house?
Ashley: Yeah, he did. So needless to say, now anytime he comes to California, [unintelligible 00:03:34] in my home. But yeah, they really focused on allowing us to be kids. And we, you know, didn’t have the most money in the world, wouldn’t have known it. But when our parents really focused on giving us the attention that we needed, and I have a whole new appreciation of that now. I mean I appreciated that before. But now, I see how invaluable that is.
Elliot: I think my kids are embarrassed because I can’t even really build stuff from IKEA.
Ashley: Well, to be fair, my dad struggles with that.
Elliot: Okay. I think everybody struggles with IKEA because it’s just ridiculous. I feel like there’s like hidden cameras and they do it on purpose.
Elliot: I do feel like I’m on “Punk’d.” Good call. Acting and modeling, how did you get into that? How did you get interested in it and then go for it?
Ashley: My mom put me in some classes because I was painfully shy. And she wanted me to gain confidence and come out of my shell, and so she put me in this kind of like modeling etiquette class. I was also a very big tomboy. And through those classes, I ended up taking a commercial class versus just straight modeling and really, really enjoyed it. And then, the same person that taught that commercial class, taught an intensive acting class. And so, I ended up going into that and kind of ditch modeling and decided that acting was something that I really, really loved. And it kind of, you know, changed the trajectory of my life.
Elliot: When you were, pretty early when you moved to L.A., pretty young.
Ashley: Yeah. And looking back now, I understand why my dad had such an issue with it. Because, initially, I went to him and said, “I want to move to L.A.” I have plans originally staying in Florida and going into criminal law or psychology. And then, as soon as I took this acting classes like, “Never mind. I want to move to L.A. and be an actor.” So you can see how I think there would be a little upsetting to any parent. And it was all the way across the country because we’re Florida-based and this is California. But I kind of put all the building blocks into place and everything they asked of me, I did. And I got all my credits and I graduated early. And I found a manager before I moved to L.A., and got an agent, and kind of, you know, all the obstacles that he put in my way to hopefully deter me from going didn’t really work.
And once those things were complete, he was like well you know, “We can’t not allow you to follow your dreams, but that’s what we’ve told you to do your entire life.” And so, he gave me a year and said, “You know you can go because you graduated early. This is like you travel abroad, and if you can’t support yourself after that year, then you need to move back home.” So, you know, he let me go. But it was very clear that I had to put in a lot of work really quickly because if I didn’t or I messed around, I was going to be right back home.
Elliot: Well, I mean it sounds like you put in a lot of work before you even came out to L.A.
Ashley: Yeah, definitely. I feel like there was some [youth 06:19] who’s on my side certainly because there was no barrier for me. I was just kind of like, “This is what I want to do and I’m going to make it happen.” But a bit of naivety there that worked in my favor.
Elliot: Okay. That kind of makes sense a little bit. Because you were just saying how like you were shy, and like to move out to the other side of the country on your own and start having to talk to people and put yourself out there in auditions and things like that, that doesn’t sound like a shy person.
Ashley: Well, I think it’s something different when you’re on set or when you’re auditioning or when you’re playing a character than when you are yourself, and when it’s just actually walking into a room. And it’s still today, I’m not the most outgoing person by nature. That takes a little bit of effort for me, and I’m definitely a bit more — I need a recharge. But when I go to a work event or I’m on set, there’s something that just kind of snaps in. And all of a sudden, I’m a different version of myself, I guess.
Elliot: Yeah. I can understand that. But I’m still impressed with the 17-year-old you coming out here.
Ashley: Thanks. I am now at this time. You just kind of made sense of the adventure. But now, I don’t know how — God bless my parents because that’s terrifying.
Elliot: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’m terrified when my kids go to 7-Eleven around the corner.
Ashley: Well, things have changed, for sure.
Elliot: True. How’d you snag “Twilight”?
Ashley: I auditioned, and I auditioned for it a couple of different times that it came through to my management team. They kind of said, “You know, this one’s important. So pay attention to it.” And I got it. And it was very vague, the breakdown. And they mentioned that there was actually a book that could give me more insight if I wanted to read it. So I went out, got the book, read it before the audition. And then, part of it, you know, I’m sure a lot of people said this, but in my mind I said, “[unintelligible 08:08] is fun and I need to get this part, and I’m going to get this part.” And it happened to be that I also looked like what Stephanie Meyer had in her head when she wrote the book.
Elliot: That’s [unintelligible 08:19]
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I definitely don’t take that for granted that I happen to look like Alice and what a lot of people had of Alice in their head because the fan response was really positive and it was time towards me and my character. But, you know, it was like any other audition and I just happened to get lucky.
Elliot: Or maybe you deserve it. Where did you meet your husband?
Ashley: I met Paul — he ended up moving in with one of my very good friends. So I was part of this space that’s called [unintelligible 08:50]. This friend group that still is, I mean, they’re like my family at this point. But we always hung out and did everything together, and Paul ended up moving in with one of them. And so, he kind of became a part of that crew. So Paul and I were very, very good friends for five years before we started dating. And got to kind of develop this really great foundation that worked very well into a romantic relationship. But for five years, we were just friends and nothing more. And neither of us really thought about anything other than that.
And so, he came to my house. I bought my house. God! I went through this terrible escrow process. It was the longest escrow process ever. So when I got the keys, I was like, everyone has to come over. And so, people came through kind of intermittently, and it was the first time that Paul and I think we’re really ever alone because we were always out with a group. And he and I talked for two or three hours, and it just like something kind of clicked for me, not for him. And I kind of said I think, “I want to date him.” And then, decided that he needed to date me, too. And so, I kind of pursued that for a couple of weeks until he agreed. And then, we didn’t tell anyone for months to make sure it was real thing.
Elliot: It must be very hard to hide.
Ashley: You know, it’s yes and no. It was also exciting. I think there’s something really fun about that where we’re the only ones in on the secret. But we knew that our friends would freak out when we told them, and we were right. When we told them, they were not happy about it.
Ashley: Because everyone was — they basically said, “What happens when you break up?”
Elliot: Oh, it’s going to ruin the whole group!
Elliot: They are going to have to take sides.
Ashley: Yeah. My thing was that both of us are good people, and we wouldn’t destroy our friendship. Like I didn’t think either of us would do anything that was going to be super negative. Either just would work or it wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t be something that was tumultuous. And they were not happy at first. And then, they realized it was a real deal. And then, we got married. Now, we have a kid.
Elliot: Okay. So that’s it. Finish high school early. Move across the country. Get a job. Going to get married. Have a kid. Okay, thanks for joining the podcast. Did you guys talk about kids early on?
Ashley: No. We knew we were going to get married pretty quickly, but we always knew that we wanted them. Like we had a lot of things out of the way before we got engaged and before we got married.
Ashley: Yeah. We discussed a lot of the harder topics that I feel like some people just kind of feel like are going to work out once they get married. And our parents are both still married. And both sides I think gave us the same piece of advice was that we need to talk about the hard topics, you know, before we move forward. And so we did. So we kind of knew where we stood with kids, and religion, and politics, and you know, all the things.
Elliot: I don’t even know where I stand on those things.
Ashley: Well, it’s kind of a little mundane these days, to be honest.
Elliot: All right. So if you got those hard things out of the way, where’d you land on your kids?
Ashley: We knew that we both wanted to have kids, and we knew that we wanted two, three max. And then, we talked about kind of how we would like to both raise our children to make sure that we weren’t super far off in parenting styles. And then, after that, we didn’t harp too much on it. Just knowing that we both wanted a couple, was good enough.
Elliot: Okay. And so, was there a moment where you’re like, “Okay, we’re ready now.”
Ashley: Yeah. He was ready before I was. Because of my career, it’s a little bit more difficult because I’m on screen most of the time. And so, pregnancy affects me a little bit differently than the majority. And I kind of had to be ready to wrap my head around that. And so, I think probably two or three years before we got pregnant with Kingsley, he said, “Okay, I want to have a kid. I want to have a kid. When do you think you’ll be ready?” He wasn’t pushy or anything, but it was definitely no. But if I was ready, he would be ready. And then, finally, I don’t know it was like something just clicked and I said, “I think I’m ready.” And he was like, “Okay, great!” We kind of looked at each other and said, “Should we do this? Should we try?” And decided to, and then I got pregnant on the first try.
Elliot: Wow! Over [unintelligible 12:56]
Ashley: Yeah. There was no kind of buffer. And the first baby though that we got pregnant with, I miscarried. And then, waited two months I think. And then, tried again and immediately got pregnant. And then, ended up having Kingsley. So it all ended up working out. But it was a pretty quick process, which I know how lucky we are to be in that position.
Elliot: Were you nervous with the second pregnancy?
Ashley: Yeah. And it was a really mental battle to try and put that out of my head. Paul and I would have these conversations about how stress affects pregnancies, and that was the last thing that I kind of needed going into this. And so, trying not to worry about, or being too fragile around this pregnancy was a bit of a challenge for me for sure. Because I think, you know, I’m only human and you can’t help but think could I change something. And so, finally kind of letting that go was really big for me of kind of understanding that this is something that’s extremely common. More people have started to talk about it, but it was mind-blowing to know how many people around me had experienced once I said something they had experienced a miscarriage also. And so, understanding that it was likely not something that I did was helpful to kind of not worry quite as much going into the second one.
Elliot: Yeah. I mean it’s never and enjoyable experience. And it’s so under talked about that people don’t realize how common it is. And like almost just a part of parenting is that your body’s going to take some of these conceptions, give them a shot, and realize they’re no good. And reject them and starting in to get some baby that’s really healthy and compatible.
Ashley: Yeah. Ours was pretty early on. And now, I can look back at it and understand how lucky I was. And also realize with that people who go so much later in a pregnancy and realize that it’s not viable. And so, for me what is painful and emotionally terrible for a while. At least, I didn’t have to make a decision down the line. [unintelligible 14:57] made it for me.
Elliot: Did it for you, totally. All right. Let’s take a little break and find out about your pregnancy and birth. We’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back! We’re talking to Ashley Greene. Okay. So you get pregnant pretty quickly. And after that miscarriage, pregnant pretty quickly again. How would you label if you had to each trimester in a word or two?
Ashley: I think the first trimester, I would label it as more fragile. The second trimester was it was vibrant.
Elliot: Okay, that’s descriptive.
Ashley: Yeah. And then, the third trimester I was impatient.
Elliot: Interesting. Okay. So did you, from the beginning, have a thought on a birth plan or birth intentions? Where you wanted to give birth and what type of provider?
Ashley: It’s interesting because I didn’t think too much about pregnancy until we started talking about kids. But I immediately knew that I was going to have a natural birth. There was never any other thought in my head. Because when I told people I wanted to do a natural birth and sans epidural, people kind of questioned like what made me make that decision. And for me, it just was something in me that said, “This is the way that it’s going to be done.” And I kind of went into my healthcare provider and said, “This is what I want and this is how I wanted to align. And I wanted everything to be as natural as possible.”
And initially decided to go to the hospital because I allowed myself to kind of feed into that year, 35 years old, maybe it’s safer to be in a hospital. And the further along I progressed in my pregnancy, the only thing that gave me anxiety was the thought of going to the hospital. Everything else I was very chill around this whole pregnancy, which I thought I would be the opposite. But I just kind of began to really trust myself and understand that my body knew what it was supposed to do.
And so, I just thought to a point where I said, “You know, this is silly. Why am I going to the hospital?” And this is the one thing that’s giving me anxiety. And so, I end up switching from my provider. She couldn’t do a home birth. And so, reached out to a group of friends, found my midwife. Her name’s Abby [unintelligible 17:17]. And then, started kind of transitioning everything over to what it would look like to birth manually at home. And as soon as I talked to her, I felt this like weight lifted off my chest and kind of knew this is what I was supposed to do. So for me, I’m really grateful that it just whatever it is inside of me, it spoke very clearly of, “This is what I want to do and everything’s going to be okay, and it’s going to work out.”
Elliot: I mean, was your husband excited about that option?
Ashley: He was actually very in line with it, which was very helpful. He and his family are very holistic and she went to her birthing center with both her kids. And my mom went to the hospital, but did everything natural at the hospital. And so, I was surrounded by people that were very supportive of the decision. My mom was a little uneasy because I’m her only daughter, and the idea of something going wrong I think was in the back of her head but ended up being really supportive. Because I’m very close to Cedars, I had a backup doctor. My pregnancy was very healthy it was very happy and so it all kind of made sense and everyone supported my decision.
Elliot: Who was going to be on your birth team? Who did you plan to have with you?
Ashley: We went back and forth on this but ended up deciding that it would be a midwife or her partner, and then ended up last minute deciding to do a photographer, and then my husband Paul. And that was it. My mom wanted to be there and in the room, and I actually felt really bad about telling her that that wasn’t going to happen. Because I went back and forth, but at the end of the day, I think you really in these situations have to listen to your instincts.
And I knew that Paul and I had a very strong, very calm energy. And the way that we interact in our everyday life was really conducive to him being the perfect partner in this process. So we ended up not doing a doula either. And I have doulas need this. But he kind of stepped into that position and was really incredible. I mean, honestly, like if you talk to the photographer and you talked to the midwife, they were like, “This was an incredible birth.” And the energy was amazing, and he was really this kind of rock for me. And we even went back and forth of doing hypnotherapy courses, and we ended up not finishing it because everything already aligned with what we were learning in these classes, and I don’t know, we were just kind of like I think we’ve got this. And there’s something to be said about not overthinking it. And so, we kind of decided to do the research we needed to do. But then let my body and the baby do what they needed to do also.
Elliot: I think you’re being pretty reasonable. Meaning it’s different for everybody. What everybody wants or needs is different. If you look at the animals, many of them do it on their own. Even they separate from the pack, go give birth and then come back. They don’t have anybody around them, not even a partner. And some people do well with more people in the room, some people don’t. Some partners are much more bonded and intuitive and hands-on. And in this case, from a holistic background, and some were, you know, faint at the sight of any type of fluid.
Ashley: He didn’t cut the umbilical cord because he doesn’t love blood. But what I say we joke that he’s my life coach or he could be a motivational speaker. And so, he stepped into that role really fantastically.
Elliot: That’s amazing. Okay. So I know you’re impatient towards the end, you wanted the baby to come out. Where, in relation to your week count, did your labor start?
Ashley: It was 40 weeks and three days.
Elliot: Did that frustrate you?
Ashley: Sure did.
Elliot: Because it was “late.”
Ashley: You know what it did? When the last two days even though we were doing everything we could to induce labor naturally, the thought started going in the back of my head like, “Oh, but that means this is actually going to happen.” Like there was a little bit of anxiety that happened at the very end, and I had to kind of keep pushing that out of my head. But it’s such a big event and one that I hadn’t experienced before. And so, I was just like, “What am I up against and what am I going to experience here?” But, yeah, I mean I saw you. I did acupuncture. I did the [unintelligible 21:16]. The day that I went into labor, I went on a full-fledged hike. And before, like you’re insane.
Elliot: Whoa! I don’t think you’re insane. I just feel bad about myself?
Ashley: About yourself?
Elliot: Yeah, because you went hiking 40 weeks, in one day, pregnant. And I can’t drag my butt to the canyon, you know, not pregnant.
Ashley: That is one of the harder things that I think I had to deal with with this pregnancy was not being able to be in the gym, or be physical the same way. I’m postpartum. Because for me, it is very mental. I say that physical fitness is like my antidepressant or anti-anxiety. And not being able to do that, it’s been a little challenging for me.
Elliot: Yeah. You’re very, very active normally. Okay, how’d your labor start?
Ashley: So I think that it started at the Grove, technically. I was having a lot of Braxton hicks but in the back of my head, “That might feel different.” And then, they were kind of just a lot more consistent. And then, I got home and then ended up kind of going back into my lair. And I didn’t say anything to my husband, didn’t say anything to my family, and just kind of felt it out. And the further along it came, I kind of fall back and I was like, “I think that I might be going into labor. I don’t want to jump the gun here, but I feel like this is different.”
But it wasn’t severely different. Like I feel like some people have the story of how they absolutely know this is different, but they weren’t extremely painful. It was just longer. And then, they kept getting closer and closer together. And for me, like instantly almost like by the time I got back to my bedroom, they were like six minutes apart. And then, they got very close very quickly. And in my head, I’m going, “Okay. Everything I’ve read all of literature says when you’re about five minutes apart, you should probably call your midwife.”
And I texted her and said, you know, again, don’t jump the gun but this is what’s happening. And her response really surprised me because she said, Okay. I’ll check on you in a couple hours.” And in my mind was like, “What? What happens if like I go into labor? Like these are super close together. What does that mean?” And of course, she knew that there’s no way you don’t just jump into 5-minute apart contractions. Generally, your body is working around something if that happens. And so, I was in labor for quite a long time longer than I would have liked to because my baby had her hand up by her head. And so that, and that’s how she came out. And so, that’s why I started having all these contractions so close together, but I wasn’t dilating.
Elliot: You weren’t progressing.
Ashley: Yeah. And so, I was like, “I’ll just chill out.” And you know, they kept getting more and more painful. And then, by the middle of the night, was probably the most frustrating for me because I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted. And was trying, you know, everything you see says, “Try and get sleep in between to be ready for the big kind of hoorah.” And then, probably 5:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the morning, I texted her and said, “This is extremely frustrating. What is going on?” And she said, “You know, let me bring you a peanut pillow so that at least you can try and get some sleep but have as the same intensity with your contractions or have them progress too forward as much as if you were standing.” Because every time I lay down, they would space apart. And I was just ready for this to happen already.
And so, I was like, “Alright, fine.” So I remember I put on the Elvis movie because I knew it was three hours long, and I haven’t slept. And so, during my labor, I was going in and out watching “Elvis.” And then, finally, she came over. I think she got to the house around eight, and it was like clockwork. Right before she walked in the door, I had my bloody show and was like, “I think I researched a lot of things but I didn’t realize that it was like as intense.” And was like, “If she hadn’t been there, I would have thought that my [baby was dying 25:07].”
Elliot: You said the intensity of the contractions?
Ashley: No, just of the bloody show. Like there was so much.
Elliot: Oh, how much blood?
Ashley: Yeah. And I was like, “Whoa! I was not expecting that!” And so, basically, right when she got there, that happened. And so, she decided she was not in fact leaving. Because once that happened everything went at the hyperspeed.
Elliot: Oh, wow! Maybe I’ll pause for one second and give three definitions. One is Cedars is a local hospital that delivers a lot of babies. Two is the Grove is a trendy outdoor mall here in Los Angeles. And three is the peanut pillow is almost like an exercise ball, but it has like a waistband in the middle. So it looks like a peanut and you can wrap your legs around it to keep your pelvis open when you’re laying down. That’s part A.
Part B is during that whole time before your midwife came, what were the things that you did for comfort? Either physical or emotional comfort.
Ashley: I showered, and that was really helpful. Just the hot water and the shower. And I think being in an enclosed space. I think it reminded me of being an animal, honestly. And having that dark kind of closed-in space. I did that when my husband was sleeping. I didn’t want to wake him because I knew, you know, it wasn’t so terrible that I wanted to let him get some sleep. And then, after that, he woke up and he massaged his four hands off probably and did a lot of counter pressure for me. And then, I did a lot of bouncing on a yoga ball and moving around. And he did the cloth that like he pulled.
Elliot: Oh, the Rebozo.
Ashley: Yeah. Where you like pulled up on my hips to kind of relieve some of that pressure, and so there was a lot of that being done.
Elliot: Was your birth photographer somebody who does birth?
Elliot: Okay. So, that’s also sort of like having another doula in the room, potentially.
Ashley: What’s funny is, so Abby gets there, she says, “You know what? You should get into the bathtub.” She called it an “aquadural.” It works similarly where it relieves some of your pain, and it did. It was great. But once I got in the bathtub, things really started getting real. That was kind of the transition point. And I remember just thinking, “Do I even want the photographer to come?” Because by nature, I think I don’t know I like my space and my people. And so, when I was in that headspace kind of, you know, “Do I want another person to come into the space?” I trust and know Abby so well. I trust my husband so well. And the photographer, well, she was wonderful. I had her come to the house once to meet her before. And so, thankfully my husband was talking to her and made the decision and had her come and she took photos.
Elliot: Did you get one with the hand by the face?
Ashley: I have to look back through. And if that’s what she was in all of our ultrasound, so it makes sense.
Elliot: Oh, wow! So you saw it coming. Interesting, yeah. But so sometimes, they have like a doula like present because they’re so used to being around birth and birth-giving people.
Ashley: Honestly, I barely saw her and she got the most incredible photos.
Elliot: Fly in the wall.
Elliot: They’re like a fly on the wall. They know exactly how to shoot without being a presence.
Ashley: How do you make someone — it’s like knowing how to make someone not look like a monster while they’re in the middle of this birthing process is such a talent. Because they’re beautiful photos. They turned out wonderful.
Elliot: It’s a special skill. Okay. So once you’re in the water, it does help you feel better but things pick up.
Ashley: Things pick up. At one point, Abby left the room because Paul and I were kind of so walked in and he was coaching me through this that she felt like, again, knowing me that like just having him there was more comforting. So she hung out for a little while in the living room until she started hearing. I think she’s attuned to the sounds and the levels and, you know, you’re starting to sound a little pushy.
Ashley: Yeah. And I was like, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” And so, we have the birthing pool blown up and moved me over.
Elliot: Oh, you were in your regular tub?
Ashley: I was in my regular bathtub.
Elliot: Oh, okay. So as soon as he got up to get out of the thing —
Ashley: My tub. We went to the birthing pool that was set up in the bedroom and got in. And I think was in and out in 45 minutes.
Elliot: With the baby?
Ashley: Yeah, it was really quick. As soon as I pushed, I felt that burning. Like I was afraid of the “ring of fire” that everyone speaks about, and didn’t have that experience. It was uncomfortable. But that part was one of the most daunting things to me, and actually turned out not to be so bad. But immediately felt I was like, “This is not a progression where she’s moving down.” Like, she’s there. And pushed a couple of times. And then, she was out, and her head came out. And then, one of the most wonderful things I think they did is had me stop pushing at a moment and breathed to loosen everything up. And then, continued pushing and her head came out, and then we just kind of sat there for a couple of minutes because there wasn’t another kind of surge for me.
And my husband was looking at the midwife and her partner, Johanna. And Johanna’s going you know, “Twenty seconds,” or you know, “Sixty seconds.” We’re at two minutes, and Paul’s like, “Can she breathe?” Like, I can’t even hold my breath for that long, what’s going on? And of course, they said, you know, “She’s totally fine.” She actually hasn’t taken her first breath yet and she was in a pool of water for a very long time. But then, she kind of I felt her shimmy her shoulders, which is really one of the coolest moments I think of the birthing process for me was feeling her kind of work her way out. Because you hear that they, you know, they’ll work with you and they know what to do. And then, her shoulders came out. And then, she was in my arms. Super alert, but like super calm, wasn’t crying.
Elliot: That’s how our water baby was, too.
Elliot: Just looking around like, “Oh, so you’re my dad. Alright.”
Ashley: Yeah. Like, “Hey, what’s up?”
Elliot: Cool. Wow, dreamy. That’s so dreamy.
Ashley: Honestly, I haven’t really spoken about it. Like people are going to love me or hate me. Because it was really this wonderful, beautiful experience and everything that I could have hoped that it would have been. I mean, unless, a little bit longer than I could have hoped for, but —
Elliot: What was the total, start to finish? From The Grove to the snuggle.
Ashley: I want to say it was 14 hours.
Elliot: That’s pretty good for your first baby.
Ashley: Yeah. Of course, I’m like, “But if she hadn’t had her hand up, how much quicker would that process have been?’
Elliot: Yeah. Who knows?
Ashley: I just remember getting frustrated. But I was just like, “Okay, listen. I can handle this.” Never once did I think I want a drug, but I do remember thinking like, “Alright, listen. I’ve got this, but I don’t know if I got this for two days.” It’s like, “When is this going to progress?”
Elliot: I think that’s pretty common like when your rational mind kicks in. Like, in the moment, this moment, I feel like I can tolerate what’s happening. But how much longer? And will I be able to tolerate it? And what if it gets more intense? Like, those are all the what-ifs that when your conscious mind shuts off hopefully go away.
Ashley: Yeah. I definitely at one point said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I didn’t say, “I can’t do this,” but I was just like “I don’t want to do this.” My husband was like, “You’ve got it. We’re going to meet her.” Maybe all the things that I had a vision board of like all the things that I would like someone to say if I needed it, and he said all the right things. But, yeah, there’s a couple of hairy moments where I was just like, “This is a lot.”
Elliot: Would you do anything different in the future?
Ashley: No, I don’t think that I would.
Elliot: Great! That’s a wonderful testament to, you know, it sounds like the vision that you had and the birth that you had were not too dissimilar.
Elliot: Alright. Let’s take a little break. When we come back, we’ll talk about postpartum and Hummingway. We’ll be right back with Ashley Greene.
Elliot: Welcome back. We’re talking to Ashley Greene, new mommy. Alright. So baby comes out and then there’s that after birth stuff. Did that go well for you?
Ashley: Pregnancy was great. Delivery was great. Postpartum sucks.
Thankfully, I had someone who was a week ahead of me and we have very, very similar pregnancies and we always confided with each other. Because you almost feel bad if you have a really good pregnancy. Like I didn’t want to have a discussion with someone who was perhaps having a little more difficult at the time. And so, with — her name is Lily, it was really helpful. And so, thankfully, we had each other to kind of ping back and forth and go, “Are you experiencing this?” And we both kind of felt like we went through the ringer a little bit for postpartum because it’s just not really spoken about. I know people are starting to be a little bit more open, but there’s still this stigma around talking about it.
And there is I find that anytime I share, especially in the beginning that I was having a difficult time, people instantly were just like, “Oh my God! Are you okay?” And it made me not want to share because they instantly go to like, “Oh, well, if you’re not saying everything is beautiful and wonderful and you have this immense love for your child, and that’s all that matters. Then like something must be wrong and you must be depressed.” And like it almost, I feel like makes you want to not share which is really unfortunate. And I think it’s important for people to understand that it’s hard. No matter which way you kind of flip it, postpartum for me, it was more difficult than the labor. It’s so much —
Elliot: In what ways? First of all, I remember in pregnancy and postpartum all day long, 10 hours a day. And rarely do people say, “Oh, postpartum is a breeze.” Even people have a lot of help by the way. It’s a very difficult — I love what you’re saying because it’s so true. And I sort of giggled about it when you’re like, “This was great. This was great. And postpartum sucked.” Just because you’re delivering a pun intended, but it’s hard. It’s a really difficult transition for a lot of people. And that doesn’t make it a bad thing, right? It just makes it a hard thing. So in what ways was it a struggle for you?
Ashley: Listen. My midwife keep telling me [that I’m grade three 35:10], “I believe you have the steepest hormonal decline that you will ever experience in your life.” So that alone is just a difficult thing to go through. I mean you think of when you’re on your period and your premenstrual, the kind of kind of waves and ups and downs you go there, and then you just intensify that times a hundred. At least, that was my experience.
And I would have these moments where I struggled with breastfeeding. I was exhausted. I was trying to figure out what my baby needed and wanted. I was healing, so I couldn’t do anything for myself. And then, I had these hormones that were kind of surging through my body. And so, sometimes, I would just start sobbing. And I was like, “I’m not even sad, but I don’t know but I’m crying.” And I had to kind of release this emotion. And, you know, hats off to my poor husband for kind of walking me back from the ledge, but it was just a really difficult time for me. Because in my life, in my world, I work really hard to be able to plan, and control, and pride myself I’m not being phased by a lot of things. And in this setting, I felt like I had no control. And so, that was really difficult.
And I love my baby to pieces, but in the very beginning, you know, it was like, “Do you have to wake me up every hour, or every two hours?” And, you know, you want them to stop crying, and then you feel guilty for that. And so, I don’t know it was just a lot to take on at once. And then, as things progress, I think me being able to walk around, me being healed, and being able to actually do a couple of things for myself was helpful in setting a teensy bit of a routine for myself was helpful. But just having no control is never fun for anyone.
Elliot: I might suggest also that for you in particular, who is very active, very athletic, and who you sort of self-described as that’s almost like your drug, to have that taken away from you, even without everything else going on, would probably not have the greatest effect.
Ashley: My husband always says like 10 days without working out usually is like the mark where he’s like, “You need to go to the gym.” Like I feel different and there’s like a haze. And I’m like, “Why don’t I feel in a funk?” And then, I go work out, and then I’m totally fine. So, yeah, it was definitely confounded things a little bit for me.
Elliot: If you could go back, because we do this with pregnancy all the time, birth in particular. You had a birth you wouldn’t necessarily change anything from the plan. If you had another baby, a lot of people learn things from the birth that they didn’t realize. They couldn’t have predicted they couldn’t have really known until they went through it. Now that you’re in postpartum, but you’ve been through, hopefully, the thick of it, if you could go back and tell pre-birth Ashley a couple of things, what would you tell her?
Ashley: I don’t know what’s going to change with a second baby. But giving yourself that grace is one of the most important things you can do and it feels nearly impossible sometimes, but I think I could do with a little bit more of that. And then, I think asking for help sooner rather than at the breaking point, I think is something that I’ll take into my next pregnancy for sure.
Elliot: Did you do anything specific to plan for postpartum before you got there?
Ashley: So I ended up creating a program with there’s a company called the DB method that I started working with who are really helpful for [unintelligible 38:39] therapy. I started working with a lot of people pre-birth. I did bodywork with you. I did [unintelligible 38:44] to do pelvic floor therapy. And so, I wanted to kind of keep that going afterwards. And so, I worked with the DB methods fitness operator to create something that would allow me to start feeling like myself again without doing any damage to my body. So I created a layered system of ways to kind of engage and reactivate your pelvic floor, and your abdominals, and your glutes. You know, they’re [layers versus weekly 00:39:08] but I kind of progressed generally naturally week by week. But that was something that was really helpful for me to be able to do for sure. And then, continuing to try and give myself like even if it’s 30 minutes to center myself and meditate. That’s extremely helpful.
Elliot: But I just went in terms of also, on top of that, while you were pregnant or before you got pregnant, did you sort of — people put a lot of resources into and thought into birth. Did you really kind of try to vision what postpartum would be like or do anything to kind of prepare that landscape? Or did it just totally [unintelligible 39:46]?
Ashley: Probably not as much as I should have. I think you put a lot of focus on the baby’s birth. And I wish that I’d spend a little bit more time on, you know, sleep schedules, or like I just learned with like waking hours were, and understanding how to properly fit a flange for breastfeeding. Like all of those things I now know, which I wish that I put into postpartum. Like I tried to set myself up for understanding that like I wasn’t going to be able to completely be myself and do everything and mentally prepare myself for giving up that control. But at this point, I understand that I didn’t do nearly enough. I mean some of it I think you just kind of have to roll with the punches. I’m curious on your opinion of what are some things that are helpful. Because for me, there’s not much I can do about that. That steep hormonal drop, there’s not much I could do about healing.
Elliot: No. I think you’re right about that. But what I do find is that knowing about them ahead of time.
Elliot: Knowing that this might happen. And even just knowing that that’s a normal thing, then when you’re going through it, you don’t feel like what is happening to me, right?
Elliot: And also preparing for it with your partner. Just like you did for birth, which is challenging and just really nice to have support. To have both of you really understand post-birth. And what kind of support would be helpful for you there.
My wife who’s a perinatal psychologist. She has a program called the “afterbirth plan.” And her biggest mission and desire in life is to make postpartum better for people with smoother transition. And a lot of that is sort of like being able to look at the postpartum landscape as if it was a map with pitfalls, and how you just kind of fall into some of these pitfalls like everybody falls into this similar pitfalls. And if you could see them, you’d know where they are, and how to navigate around them, realize when you’re starting to fall, and pull yourself out. Realize if you’re in too deep, it needs some help to come out. And all of that is what the afterbirth plan is.
And it’s hard because during pregnancy, you feel fine, you feel great. You said the second trimester was amazing. And then, the third one, you were just impatient because you wanted your baby to come. But it’s hard at that point to say you should probably put some effort into what’s going to happen on the other side. Why fix a problem you don’t have? And it’s been hard to sort of make that pitch to people. And then, when you’re in it, it’s a little bit hard because you’re in it.
Ashley: Like helpless [animals 42:12].
Elliot: Yeah. And it’s also not a great time to start reading a manual, you know, “What do I do here?”
Ashley: Yeah. I find, to your point, that it is during the first couple weeks, I wanted to be able to make use of my time that I couldn’t really do much and wanted to be able to read. But I felt like my brain was so foggy that I couldn’t focus the things that I wanted to read. So I’ll be using this plan before my next birth. Because like I think a lot of things around postpartum are seem negative and so you don’t want to like put yourself in that headspace. But being able to look at it from like a structured way like you said, like a map of going, “Alright, we’re going to kind of plan for these things, and be ready for these things, and know what you’re up against,” would be extremely helpful.
Elliot: Yeah. I mean the great thing is during the pandemic, she made an afterbirth program that can be done online and anybody can do it from anywhere. It’s broken down into modules. It’s great to do with a partner. And, it’s not negative, it’s just realistic. And having a little preparation can go a long way. And also, just lots of ideas on how to build support for yourself before you get there where you need it.
Ashley: I remember listening to your podcast and hearing your wife came on for an episode and thinking, “I should have done this but I was so far in.” I think I’m like a week until I was due. That I was like, “Well, I missed that boat.” But if I had known about it and heard her speak about it earlier, I would certainly would have done it.
Elliot: Well, hopefully, through your openness and your sharing, and courageously so. Because like you said a lot of people don’t talk about it, and a lot of people are judgy about it for reasons I can’t fully understand. But, hopefully, you’ll help other people also have a smoother transition.
Ashley: People just don’t understand a lot of postpartum, and for some reason fear it. And I know where the judgment comes from, but it’s like it shouldn’t be spoken about.
Elliot: Yeah, like miscarriage also. Like I don’t get it. Yeah, those are two things that we should be speaking about, and you hit both of them. So thank you.
Ashley: Yeah, of course. [unintelligible 44:11], it’s so crazy. And like the more we talk about it, the less alone people feel. And the more normal it will become for everyone. And then, trust me, like when people start opening up to just not feel alone and to just not feel like it was my fault, it was huge.
Elliot: Yeah. We’re going to get a lot of that feedback. Alright, talking about hormones shooting all over the place, tell me about Hummingway.
Ashley: Yeah. So Hummingway came about because I got off hormonal birth control. This was kind of part of the discussion of like three years probably ago, maybe longer down. I’m going, “We know we want to have kids in the future, and I want to start preparing my body for that process.” I want to be as much of a kind of temple as possible and just set myself up for the best kind of potential. And so, decided you know I really want to get off every prescription that I’ve ever been put on. And that included hormone birth control.
And when I got off of it, I kind of all of a sudden started experiencing all of these symptoms that had been suppressed by birth control, which by the way were not fixed by it. And just kind of lost control of my body in my 30s, and was wildly frustrated at the kind of responses and answers that I was getting. As far as trying to understand what was happening to my body and the answers you get are you can go back on hormone birth control or you can try this other drug for this symptom. There’s never insight into why our bodies are experiencing this and how we actually fix it. There’s always just kind of a Band-Aid that’s offered. No fault of your doctor, that’s just kind of what the system is set up as. And I don’t feel they really have the resources to be able to kind of fully holistically look at you and start to break down and understand why you’re experiencing each symptom.
And so, you know, I ended up talking to my sister-in-law about this. She had her own experience, was finally diagnosed with PMDD, which is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. And both of us were just kind of going, “You know, this is not right. Why is there not a better option out there for us?” Both educationally and product-wise, and solution-wise. And so, she and I decided that if it wasn’t out there, we would try and do it ourselves. And initially, what started is being kind of solution for the two of us quickly became a solution for a much larger audience because we realized that most everyone we spoke to had some sort of story of feeling alone, not understanding their body, not getting the diagnosis that they needed, or not getting the solutions that they needed.
And so, I said you know we’re going to create a company that gives you know toxic solutions for menstrual cycle symptoms, and it gives you an educational platform so you can start really learning about your body and be able to go into your doctor’s office armed with the information you need and become your own health advocate. Because no one else is going to do it for you and no one else is going to really know your body better than you do. And so, that’s kind of how it started for us, and it just became something that I felt illness don’t have a choice at that point where I was like, “This just has to be done and we’re going to be the ones to do it.”
Elliot: Wow! And the product that you have, it’s a “Cycle Soother.”
Elliot: How is it administered?
Ashley: So it’s called the “Cycle Soother Patch.” It is a transdermal patch. So you put it on. All the ingredients in the patch flow directly into your bloodstream. So you bypass your digestive tract. So the reason we decided to do it that way is that we wanted something that had the most bioavailability. Meaning that whatever ingredients we put in that pouch was going to go directly into your bloodstream, and you are going to get the biggest impact from those ingredients. We also like the fact that people are taking a lot of supplements, a lot of pills. And so, we thought it would be nice to create something that was a bit innovative, and that you could just kind of stick on and get that impact relatively quickly. And so, we did some research on — My mom uses transdermal patches for back pain, and we just sort of kind of taking around reaching out figuring out who made the best tray of dermal patch. And we happened to find someone who is fantastic that also has a passion for reproductive health, and it was this really beautiful marriage.
Elliot: Wow! That sounds great. So where can we learn more about the product and how to use it or where to get it?
Ashley: Yep. So our social tag’s our @ourhummingway. Same thing on our website, www.ourhummingway.com, and the product is all DVC. So you can go on get it shipped directly to you. We would love other people to try it. We’ve gotten a really great response, which has been one of the most fulfilling things to date is knowing that something we created is actually really helping people in their day-to-day life.
Elliot: That sounds fantastic. Where’s the name from, Hummingway?
Ashley: Well, we have a really special attachment to hummingbirds out there all over the yard. And we loved the fact that this humming was kind of this like soothing factor. And the fact that hummingbirds can go up, down, back, forwards. And we kind of felt like that’s how we wanted to approach reproductive health and the menstrual cycle. To really kind of create this explosion of information because it’s such an underdeveloped space. And so, we decided “Hummingway,” which sounded great and resonated with us.
Elliot: Yeah. It’s descriptive. It creates an image. Yeah. Well, I could talk to you forever, but I know you have a kid to get to.
Ashley: It’s nothing. She’s a champion.
Elliot: I love it! She’s just so good to me. Alright, first of all, where can we find you online?
Ashley: My Instagram is @ashleygreene.
Elliot: That’s pretty easy to remember.
Ashley: I have a Twitter, but I don’t use it very often. So find me on Instagram.
Elliot: Instagram! We’ll find you over there. Ashley, I’m so glad and grateful for you to join us on share so openly on the podcast. Congratulations on your birth. I send you a lot of strength and energy and positive juju through the rest of your postpartum phase, and we’re going to visit you on Instagram, @ashleygreene.
Oh! And we’re on there, too. @doctorberlin, D-O-C-T-O-R-B-E-R-L-I-N. But we have this all-new exciting streaming platform called “Informed Pregnancy Plus,” and it’s at informedpregnancy.tv. And one of the things that’s on there is the after-birth plan. We’ll see you there.