Like true sisters, Allison Belanger and Dr. Brooke Storer, an OB-GYN, have always looked out for each other. When Belanger was going through sorority rush at the University of Oklahoma, Storer paved the way for her at Kappa Alpha Theta. In college, Storer encouraged Belanger to date her brother – essentially hand-picking his future wife. When Storer was looking for a job after medical residency, Belanger talked her up at her OB-GYN appointment with Dr. Jennifer Strebel. That conversation resulted in Storer joining the practice.
Then, there are the babies. Belanger and Storer experienced their first pregnancies together, and their first-borns arrived six weeks apart. Coincidentally, their second babies were born six days apart. And their third-borns? Only three days apart. The uncanny timing and shared experiences (times three) have strengthened their sisterly bond indefinitely.
“We were able to be in that postpartum period together, where the rest of the world keeps going, but you’re in this bubble of newborn land with no sleep and trying to figure out breastfeeding,” Belanger says.
“Some friends say, ‘Isn’t this the most magical experience?’” Storer said. “And I’m thinking, ‘No, this is awful. What did I sign myself up for?’ Allison was always really transparent, [saying], ‘Yeah, this is hard. It’s not going perfectly for me either.’”
Storer talked with new moms in her clinical practice who also had had the same experience.
“At the postpartum visit, I can walk in the door and tell if someone is doing OK or not,” Storer says. “If they’re not, I only have 10 minutes to help, and that’s just not enough. You can see it in people’s eyes, that they’re craving reassurance. People spend all this time looking at beautiful pictures on social media, seeing all these other new moms around them, and they have this picture in their head of what it’s supposed to be like.”
Counseling and medication prescribed by a doctor can alleviate some anxiety – but so can having an extra set of hands, eyes and ears to care for the baby. With that in mind, Belanger and Storer started discussing how they could pull together resources to help others through the newborn phase.
“We want moms to have more joy and less stress in those early days of motherhood,” Storer said. “We want them to feel empowered and know that they’re not alone. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to not feel OK some days.”
The sisters-in-law recently launched The Postpartum Concierge, an organization of registered nurses, lactation consultants and errand-runners poised to help. Belanger and Storer match new moms with the “concierge” best equipped to handle their specific situation.
“A lot of it is just survival,” Belanger said, “but hopefully with some extra hands and extra care, we can help moms succeed in whatever they want to do; whether that’s getting some rest or having more time to spend with an older child.”
Find Storer and Belanger online at thepostpartumconcierge.com.