A Sudbury woman has gone into the private nursing business to help new parents cope with having a newborn child.
Carolyn Marshall is the first in Northern Ontario to open a new business called Mama Coach, which specializes in providing education and support to mothers and families. She has been in business helping new moms since January.
"I'm a registered nurse and my background is pediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)," said Marshall, RN, BScN.
"In the fall I resigned from the hospital in Sudbury. I worked at Health Sciences North for almost 10 years," Marshall said.
She explained that Mama Coach is the larger brand name given to the private nursing business.
"Mama Coach is across North America but we all own private businesses within the brand," she said.
The company home page shows seven private nursing operations in place in Ontario. Marshall is the only one assigned to Northern Ontario. The other six are located in Southern Ontario in such places as Bruce County, the Niagara Region, the Burlington-Oakville area, the Bradford-NewMarket-Barrie area, Ottawa and the Richmond Hill-Vaughan-Markham area.
The link to Marshall's home page explains the services being offered to Northerners.
In a brief description on her page, Marshall speaks about her personal experiences.
"After being exposed to the magic of a maternal-newborn unit in nursing school, I knew I only wanted to work with children and families in my nursing career,” she writes.
Marshall said her work with premature infants, newborns, pediatrics in general and with families provided her with the skills to help coach new parents through those stressful early days when everyone is still trying to find their footing.
“This experience has also created a soft spot for me for mother's and families with preemies, or special needs children as I have cared for them across the spectrum of their life (newborn to teens),” she said on the website. “My own journey into motherhood has become more complicated as I am on an extensive infertility journey, but this adventure has made me more empathetic to those who might be or have been on a similar path."
Marshall also commented on the fact that almost all the services she offers are already being provided in Ontario through public health units. The public health services are also provided for free.
Marshall said the difference is that she is available evenings and weekends and can provide one-on-one support to new parents. She said there is a market for that.
"Parents you know are just looking for extra support. They get discharged really quickly from the hospital. I offer services ranging from prenatal classes, feeding, lactation or breastfeeding, bottle feeding, how to introduce solids, sleep coaching, toilet training, and I am also a certified CPR instructor. I offer support and education to expecting and new parents.I do evenings and weekends and I can do email support as well," said Marshall.
She added that the pandemic has made virtual classes and consultations a "new normal" sort of thing. She said many of her coaching classes are virtual.
Marshall said some of it has been challenging but added that many parents have found it easy to set up the laptop and take classes together from the comfort of their own living room.
"I do a small amount of in-home stuff on a case-by-case basis, during the pandemic. Often I will do breastfeeding and newborn support in home," she said
Marshall said society has changed despite the fact that there is a proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Many families are smaller. Fewer pregnant women or new mothers can rely on the advice and support of their own mothers, sisters, aunts and even grandmothers living nearby.
"The village is no longer part of the norm in society anymore," said Marshall.
Another concern she said is that too many people seem to search out solutions on the internet.
"Google has made it harder. People want to Google everything and not everything that you get on the internet is evidence-based," said Marshall.
“As a regulated health-care professional, I can re-tailor that information to somebody's needs and give them actual scientific evidence or recommendations from Public Health."
The other part of the story is that Mama Coach is not free. It's a business. Her webpage outlines some of the costs of consultations. There is for example a $75 per hour charge for a virtual or telephone visit to "help with anything" in the first 12 weeks of a newborn's life. There is also a sleep plan for the baby with a two-week consultation for $400. Potty training can be done for $250.
This conjures up the idea of a two-tiered health system, one for the wealthy and one for the rest of Canada. It is an idea that has been debated for decades and is already happening on many fronts in Canada as people are willing to pay for quicker or more-specialized health services.
Marshall said many of the costs can be covered by private insurance plans, but OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) does not cover her service.
The reality is that most of her services are provided through public health agencies, but Marshall said many people want more and are willing to pay.
"Some people want more support. They want to be able to email somebody with their questions. Even knowing that they have that is enough just to reduce parents' anxieties," she said.
"I am here. I have the expertise to provide that support. There is a lack of this support in the North."
Marshall's territory for the Mama Coach business is not just Sudbury. It includes Elliot Lake, Espanola, Sault Ste. Marie, Manitoulin Island, Timmins and North Bay.
"It has been surprisingly busy. I am quite enjoying it. I own the territory for most of Northeastern Ontario so I am seeing quite a few people outside of Sudbury as well."
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.