I created this space because it is exactly what I wish I had when I became a mother, and because postpartum support and self-care is missing in our medical system.
DNP- Doctorate in Nursing Practice
OBGYN-NP- Masters in Nursing Science, OBGYN Nurse Practitioner
MPH- Masters in Public Health, Health Promotion/Sociomedical Science
CLC- Certified Lactation Counselor
I began my health studies at Columbia University where I received my Master’s in Sociomedical Sciences and Health Promotion. Afterwards, I worked as a sexual health counselor in New York City. I now live in Boston and currently work in private practice doing full scope OBGYN care. I have a deep passion for prenatal care and spiritual/mindfulness healing.
My mother is my biggest inspiration. She was a Biologist. Unfortunately, her severe relapsing multiple sclerosis disabled her mobility and speech by the time I was 3 years old. Over the years, we have mastered our nonverbal communication between us. I love to hear stories about my mother. They allow me to better understand who she is, thus who I am.
One of my favorite stories about her my aunt shared one night as we relaxed by my mother’s bedside casually reminiscing. She said- “Serena, everything I know about sex is because of Cesarina. She used to read to us the chapters in the back of the biology textbook which we always skipped in school. She explained to us everything about menstruation and the reproductive system.” This was occurring in the 1970s, in the small town of Amalfi in the South of Italy, where most women experienced their first sexual encounters on their wedding night, their mothers certainly not speaking of the subject matter prior. I love this story because I see so much of myself in it- breaking social norms and educating to empower.
I have had a lifelong love and passion for reproductive health. It feels as if it has been a true life calling. When I was 19 years old, I traveled to West Africa with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) promoting prenatal influenza vaccination. At the end of the project, I was asked to present my work to healthcare providers in the area, a group that primarily consisted of male physicians. Rather than influenza, I decided to speak about my discovery of female genital mutilation, perpetrated in as many as 80% of young women. My heart was beating outside of my chest as I spoke against this culture norm. Certain audience members even stood up and walked out of the lecture, but I remained upright and professional, managing to articulate words louder than my beating heart. This was the moment I discovered a part of me that had always existed inside; the part of me I inherited from my mother- my love and determination for reproductive health.
My acceptance to Columbia University’s School of Public Health realized two lifelong dreams: to study health, and to live in New York City. As a public health major, I felt that the city was my office. I could create programs and interventions that made communities healthier, but I felt I was missing out on the personal interactions that so significantly impacted me when I was working in Mali. I transitioned from large corporate Public Health agencies, to a small community clinic.
My first clinical job was a sexual health educator in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, one of the most medically underserved neighborhoods in New York City, with one of the highest rates of STDs and unintended pregnancies in the country. I was responsible for screening and providing education to patients. In doing so, I learned that every patient’s chief complaint had a much longer back-story, because behind every health condition was a human being. This job gave me a beautiful holistic foundation and I learned so much about patient-centered care.
In 2015 I left New York City to achieve an even bigger dream- becoming an OBGYN nurse practitioner. I attended the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professionals and learned alongside an amazing group of teachers and mentors. After graduation, I started working in private practice doing full scope OBGYN care. I developed a particular love for prenatal and postpartum care because this is one of the most vulnerable times in someone’s life.
March 20, 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, my son was born. Thirty hours after I delivered him, I was discharged from the hospital and went home to quarantine. I remember walking into my apartment with my newborn son, everything looked the same as it did before I left for the hospital, but it all suddenly felt new. Prior to his birth, I was so confident that I had adequately prepared for the new-born phase. After all, I thought, I am a OBGYN nurse practitioner and a certified lactation counselor. I have spent years teaching patients about this! But this period quickly became a very eye-opening experience. Despite all my best efforts, I could not meet my expectations. My sense of confidence dropped after every sleepless night. I developed negative limiting beliefs and found myself at night scrolling through blogs, none of them evidence based, simply in the hope of finding a magic answer on the right thing to do.
When I look back at my postpartum period, I now realize that every answer I was seeking had always been within me, but my mind was holding me back. I spent months preparing and registering for material things, but I never thought to arm myself with some of the most powerful tools I would need during this time- grace, manifestation, gratitude, positive energy work. I learned three truths during this experience- 1) Babies react to your energy 2) All babies are different so there needs to be an individualized and personalized plan of care and 3) There is very little support for birthing parents after they give birth.
This led me to researching what existed around mindfulness in medicine during my doctorate degree. I identified through an extensive literature search the lack of support in postpartum care, and that increasing self-efficacy through mindfulness practices is a viable solution for change. I poured over hundreds of research articles to create a condensed body of work, specifically applying mindfulness to the postpartum period. Now, it is my life’s mission to share this work and create a space to give postpartum parents the resources to help them move from a state of surviving, to a state of thriving.