AS AUTHOR Anne Lamott noted in her 1993 bestselling account of her son's first year, babies do not come with operating instructions.
Neither do the events leading up to the birth of those babies, and many women find themselves feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied as they navigate pregnancy, labor and the first few weeks of their child’s life.
Enter Erigo, a new resource for expectant mothers and their partners. Call it a one-stop shop for the childbirthing year: This is where to care for the transforming body, practice those breathing exercises, learn to breastfeed successfully and figure out what color a two week-old’s poop should be.
“We want to provide everything that’s missing from the medical birth experience,” explains owner and head facilitator Cate Glyn-Jones.
“There’s a lot of support and nurturing needed that mothers and new families don’t get in the hospital or from their doctors.”
A registered nurse from Edinburgh, Scotland, Glyn-Jones trained as a midwife at Oxford University and spent the last 13 years as a delivery nurse and lactation consultant at Savannah’s Candler Hospital.
There she became renowned for her calming presence and charming bedside manner, though she found that Americans have a fairly warped perspective on birthing babies, believing it to be more like an illness than a natural process.
And it’s no wonder: Labor induced by the synthetic hormone pitocin is the norm in hospital births, and one in three babies is now delivered by surgical C-section. Films like The Business of Being Born document that those decisions are often made for “monetary reasons, not for the good of the mother and baby,” and still result in the U.S. ranking second-worst for newborn death rates in the developed world. The chances of breastfeeding are greatly reduced after a C-section, eliminating the many benefits it brings to both mother and baby.
Building a woman’s confidence in her own body and intuition can reduce the chances of such complications, and Glyn-Jones is a part of a quiet revolution to take birth back from the traditional medical establishment.
“You don’t need a nursing degree to have a baby,” she enjoins in her clipped accent. “Women have that knowledge already; they just need to be reminded that it’s normal.”
After attending literally thousands of births, the mother of two realized her skills might be put to better use as an educator and consultant “to help empower people about their choices.”
Ergo, Erigo, which means “to raise or nurture” in Latin.
The “boutique maternity firm” opened its doors last month, offering five-week birthing classes and breastfeeding support as well as yoga classes, pre- and post-natal massage and a free monthly support group. The public is welcome to attend a grand opening celebration Tuesday, April 8.
Far from a clinical doctor’s office or the sanitized halls of the hospital, Erigo’s interior is fresh and sunny, with a stylish color palette more suited to your BFF’s livingroom. There are wide open spaces and thick foam floor mats, and of course, a big bin of baby toys.
“It’s a dream, having all of these services in one place,” says Ginger Veitinger, who operates her Bump Massage Therapy practice in a serene back room.
“This is a piece that’s really been missing in Savannah.”
Everything is designed to put parents at ease. Even Nurse Glyn-Jones eschews scrubs, instead striking a perfect harmony of rebellious professionalism in jeans, motorcycle boots and a strand of pearls.
Her right-hand woman is office manager Helen Pastures, who also hails from the United Kingdom. Pastures brings a master’s degree in public health to Erigo as well as her four-month old son, Evan. (Little Evan naps in a crib behind the front desk as the women live out the very definition of work-life balance.)
Together Glyn-Jones and Pastures sound like a couple of modern Mary Poppins, here not just to take care of the children, but the new mums and dads as well. They often speak about the “fourth trimester,” those first crucial months of bonding between new parents and babies.
“It’s about the continuum of care,” explains Pastures she nurses Evan in one the sitting area’s cozy armchairs. “Even when and if you go back to work, you need support more than ever.”
“There’s so much emphasis on the maternity clothes and what color the nursery is going to be, but there’s very little discussion about what happens when you go home,” adds Glyn-Jones.
While Erigo doesn’t subscribe to any particular school of thought, attachment parenting techniques such as baby-wearing and breastfeeding are highly encouraged.
The Savannah Slingers holds regular meetings in the space, and classes for siblings and grandparents are also on the Erigo schedule.
“This isn’t a regimen or a gimmick,” assures Glyn-Jones.
“It’s about opening up the parenting world so you can best enjoy your baby and your new family.”