Mother and daughter doulas Pati Matlock and Meghan Serio make a unique birthing tag team. As labor doula, Matlock supports mothers-to-be through the process of birth. As postpartum doula, Serio focuses on the baby, assisting new moms with breast-feeding and infant care.
Matlock and Serio are nurse practitioners who specialize in women’s health. Each has earned master’s degrees in maternity/newborn care. Plus they are on the faculty at Trocaire College and D’Youville College teaching students about maternity nursing.
At age 60, Matlock is one of seven children. Married for 33 years, she operates “Caring Hands & Hearts Doula Service” from her home in Hamburg. At age 30, Serio is one of four children and has been married for five years.
People Talk: This wasn’t planned, was it?
Pati Matlock: You mean for Meghan to follow in my footsteps? No, but now I’ll tell you the truth. I was in nursing school at Trocaire. I already had one daughter and I was pregnant with Meghan. I was studying for my nursing boards, which were two-day exams – eight hours each day. This baby was kicking up a storm the whole time I was studying. As the years progressed, Meghan never said she was interested in nursing. Slowly it evolved. She became a nurse. Her special interest was maternal newborn, just like me.
Meghan Serio: She would teach a lot of Lamaze and breast-feeding classes. Then she would rent breast pumps, and then she became a doula and then she became a midwife. As a teenager, I knew the importance of what she did in teaching, and I often answered the phone. I felt like I was a part of it, but it wasn’t my personal area of interest. But I started in nursing undergrad. I’ve been obsessed with babies since I was real little. I always baby-sat. She suggested instead of baby-sitting my way through college why not become a postpartum doula?
PT: Are birth weights increasing?
PM: Yes. Mothers are getting healthier. The nutrition is better. The resources are better, generally.
MS: I have a different take on it. I think there is a perception that the bigger the baby, the healthier, but a 10-pound baby is not better off than a 7-pound baby. A good, nice average-size baby is the healthiest. It’s just like a 5-pound baby has a harder time than a 7-pound baby. There’s higher weight gain in American women when they’re pregnant. Large-for-gestational-age babies have difficulty regulating body temperature and other things.
PT: What’s the latest in baby gadgets?
MS: I can think of two, the first being video monitors. It used to be you just wanted to hear if the baby was crying. Video monitors allow you to watch the baby breathing. In addition to that – for parents who are concerned with SIDS – there is a mat that goes beneath the baby on top of the mattress. If the baby doesn’t move a certain number of times in an hour, an alarm would sound.
PT: How do you each approach your jobs differently?
MS: The age is a difference, and also the breadth of experience. She has three decades, and I only have one. What this coupling brings to the table is insight.
PM: I’m more relaxed and laid back.
PT: In the 30 years you’ve been a maternity nurse, how have mothers changed?
PM: Today’s mothers are not as well-prepared as they were years ago. Attendance at childbirth classes in the ’70s and ’80s was very high. There were no alternatives, so you learned tools like breathing and relaxation. Into the ’90s and 2000s, the epidural rate increased. Women are now having babies not knowing how to care for them.
PT: How can you tell?
MS: I know, because when I work in the hospital, women don’t know how to hold the baby. They don’t know how to feed the baby – even with a bottle. They don’t know how to wrap a baby or change the baby’s diaper.
PM: They think they can go on the Internet and learn how to go through labor or learn how to breast-feed.
PT: What makes the other good at what she does?
MS: Her heart is fully invested in everything I see her do from raising us to cleaning and decorating her home. Even now when we’re all grown and out of the house, she’s still there for us every day. We are very close. Being a nurse, being a midwife, being a doula and an educator – every single thing she fully puts herself into.
PM: Meghan’s energy and knowledge amaze me constantly. Teaching at D’Youville and she’s only 30 years old. She is going to make a wonderful mother when the time comes, and I’ll be right there being the gramma.