Skyla Stover grew up in a nest of wellness in the San Francisco Bay area, surrounded by holistic healers, herbs, tinctures, saunas, massage and homeopathic medicine. The daughter of a landscape designer, she didn’t eat processed food since so much was available in her mother’s bountiful garden.
Now, she’s taken that base and created another home in Brooklyn, NY, based at Frame Therapeutics. There, she’s equally attuned to wellness, as she offers pre- and post-natal massage, doula services and certified breastfeeding counselor services. Passionate about educating and increasing support and services for the pre- and post-natal population, Stover shares why she’s so interested and excited about new and current mamas, and how she hopes to serve them. Read on!
SBS: What was your professional path on the way to your work in the pre- and post-natal world?
Skyla Stover: I became a birth doula first, which I knew was going to open up so much for me. In that training I learned so much about our bodies, pregnancy, childbirth, traditional medicine, Western medicine and the politics of it all…the list goes on.
One thing that stuck out to me was that breastfeeding can be really complicated, challenging, and even scary. One common theme is that we all just think the baby knows how to latch as soon as they come out, and it’s just that simple and easy. But that’s not always the case. So taking a breastfeeding counseling course felt like the next thing to do, an important piece to the birth-doula offerings.
Then I decided to specialize in prenatal and postpartum massage. I figured I would learn so much more about anatomy and neurology. It’s also another way for me to work with this population, as well as another service I can offer my doula clients.
SBS: What interests and excites you about the pre- and post-natal arenas? When did you first realize you were drawn to this population and work?
SS: I think it was the fact that it's just so wildly incredible and fascinating, and I don't believe people give the process the recognition it deserves.
What excites me is the actual process of pregnancy and childbirth. Everything surrounding that interests me: what and who needs care and attention, what is missing, and also the reality that it's not always this wonderful pregnancy glow. Let’s talk about the hard times and the real times. Knowledge is power, and everyone deserves it.
Where I come from, there were a lot of home births (me!), and people just talking openly about the whole process so, it felt familiar. But I also didn’t really realize I could make a life out of it until about five years ago.
SBS: What was your training along this road? What challenges and adventures did you have on that journey?
SS: I took my birth doula training at Birthday Presence with Debra Pascali-Bonaro from Orgasmic Birth. I also took my CBC training there with Lea Rivera. For massage therapy, I went to The Swedish Institute.
All of my training was fascinating. Fellow students were of all different ages and backgrounds, and they all did different things, so that was and is always a happy place to be.
It’s almost always an adventure! So much of this work is unpredictable. This is a nonstop learning process and a reality check. The challenge is seeing how unfairly people, especially people of color, are treated in hospitals. Black maternal mortality rate is 30% higher than white women. Generally, women should be offered more education, options and opinions surrounding their birth.
SBS: Tell us all about your services now!
SS: Currently, I’m mainly doing prenatal and postpartum massage. It’s truly wonderful. Helping women through all trimesters with a range of issues or no issues at all, just wanting to relax. I usually send out an intake form to get an idea of what the client is looking for, if there are any high risk factors, injuries, etc. On the day of the appointment, we do a consultation to just assess what the client would like out of the session. Since everyone is different, every massage is different.
I still offer advice about doula-type questions, and I also have a lot of referrals for those seeking any type of assistance with pregnancy and postpartum. I work in Park Slope at Frame Therapeutics. We offer osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, pediatric physical therapy, and soon, there will be support groups and classes offered.
SBS: What are the most important things clients should know about pre- and post-natal massage?
SS: It is safe for all trimesters. Because the first trimester carries an increased risk of miscarriage, a lot of therapists won’t take clients at this stage. Or, a client might want to simply avoid it, which is understandable. But! I always tailor the massage according to the stage of pregnancy or postpartum. It’s also safe to get massaged right up until you give birth, whether that’s 38 weeks or 42 weeks; it can really be helpful.
Always see someone who is prenatal certified. They’ll have a better understanding of how to work on you and the areas to avoid. Consult your doctor if you have any hesitations or have any risk factors. You can absolutely still get an amazing massage while pregnant!
SBS: What is your work like as a CBC?
SS: I’ve attached that training to my doula services, so I mainly use it with people who are already my doula clients: preparing them for breastfeeding, including all of the stages from milk let-down to baby poop. I give them some general information and tools, and then when the baby comes, I help with any latching issues, positions to breastfeed, etc. Honestly a lot of it can be simply giving support and letting someone know that it's ok if it's not going perfectly at first. I’m able to identify any issues or red flags, and if referrals are needed. Everyone offers this service very differently, and there are many levels of this kind of work.
SBS: What is the landscape surrounding CBC and breastfeeding? What are your thoughts on the difficulties and joys you experience with mothers?
SS: Where to begin! A lot of it is education surrounding it. They don’t teach you this in school, and it’s not always as instinctual as you would think. So a lot of women feel pretty lost. There’s also already so much information coming at new parents, it can all be overwhelming.
Women can feel like complete failures if breastfeeding is not going well, understandably. I try to just sit with the moment, be with each person and listen to what they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling, and what their story is in this moment. I go from there. I feel a lot in those times, good and bad. But I also feel like that’s why I’m there doing the work I do, to be a part of something so important and monumental. People need people. My thoughts are that we need to be discussing these things more often so people can hear other peoples stories, feel like they aren’t the only ones in a certain scenario, learn from each other, and have support. Education, education, education!
SBS: What is your style as a massage practitioner? What about as a CBC?
SS: It really varies. I have to be flexible. I have to be able to adapt, for both. I think I’m kind and caring, but also I’ll approach things from a very technical point.
SBS: What are your tips for someone starting their own work in this area?
SS: Ask questions, be curious, build a community, be strong, be soft, be ready for anything, and always have water and snacks on you.
SBS: What advice would you give to yourself starting out?
SS: Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
SBS: What's your wellness routine like, and what's your version of self-care?
SS: Staying active outside of work is so important. It also can be challenging when your body is your tool, and it certainly gets tired. But I like to mix up what type of exercise I do depending on the week, how many clients I have, how my body is feeling and energy level. Usually it’s something between boxing, yoga, running, weights, a class or a quick at-home workout. it ranges.
Self-care is receiving a massage! It’s so important!
SBS: How do you manage all of your different activities?
SS: They all go hand-in-hand in some form, so it doesn't feel too hectic. But I would say just really tuning in to whichever part you’re in, because it usually involves an individual with an individual issue. Also having a community of like-minded people who you can share questions, thoughts, and concerns with is very important. We need support, too.
SBS: How has your life changed professionally and personally since COVID started?
SS: It definitely forced me to slow down. I was in massage therapy school in the day and working in the evenings; it was a lot. It took me away from the day-to-day grind, which put some things into perspective: how I was using my time, what I want to be doing, and things like that.
Needless to say it was scary because everything I do is very personal and in-person. I just ended up trying to take more classes and gain more knowledge I could hope to use in the near future, which I now am. I think it helped me hone in and get a little more specific with the direction I was going in.
The best, zaniest part of being Skyla: I’m a wild child who wants to make jokes all of the time, but then probably takes things too seriously too often.
Skyla’s SBS Mantra: Be Present! Life is happening fast and being present is seeing the moment for what it is.
Healthy Restaurant: Cafe Mogador
Splurge Restaurant: Gage & Tollner
Fun Activity: Riding a bike around with no agenda, and stopping for food and NYC views
Calming Activity: Getting a massage…duh!
Fitness Studio: Overthrow Boxing Club
Yoga Studio: Modo Yoga
Athleticwear: Manduka and Z by Zella
Athletic Shoes: Adidas
Books: Guide to Natural Childbirth by Ina May, The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
Online Resources: https://evidencebasedbirth.com and https://www.drweil.com