Mental Health Collection: Sheila's Story (Part 3 of 3)
Thank you for joining us this week for Sheila's story (for Part 1, click here, and for Part 2, click here)! This blog post wraps up our conversation with her; in this portion, Sheila speaks about how overcoming her own mental health struggles has enabled her to help other women in her role as a Doula. Sheila is an inspiration!
(Amanda and Sheila, hanging out on the deck. Real conversations are the best.)
Amanda: Sheila! We’ll wrap this up soon, but first, I want to know a bit more about your work as a Doula.
Sheila: Absolutely. The first two births I attended were four days apart in 2013. It was insane and it was awesome and I loved it and I haven’t looked back.
A: How many births have you been to?
A: What?! I didn’t know that.
S: I have seen eighteen babies be born. I have supported eighteen moms during birth. I have supported other ones as a back-up doula or as a co-doula where the other one has gone to the birth. Then with my child-birth educator I have helped other moms.
A: You have helped a lot of women.
S: Yeah and it’s only been four years and it’s growing!
A: That’s amazing. You love it, don’t you?
S: I do. This is me. I was at a birth just recently, on June 8th. The next day I went back and saw them at the hospital. Both the dad and the mom said: “You are really good at what you do.” The dad said: “I don’t want to go voodoo on you, but you were really good at this. You were so intuitive with it.” It was great to hear.
A: I’m not surprised to hear that at all. You’ve got good vibes around you [laugher]. In addition to being there in an energetic and physical sense, how else do you help these women?
S: I try to support women in whatever way I can. I encourage that whatever decisions they make during their birth are the right decisions for them. You can have an epidural. You don’t have to have an epidural. Whatever the decisions are, those are the right decisions. And that’s where I want to go with my child birth education. I can’t be with every single couple in the delivery room and I’m not going to be a good fit for everybody. But I’d love to teach people about epidurals, about breathing techniques, about it all. Then they can walk into the birth and use what they need to use.
A: There is no judgement, from you. Just support.
A: I also think it’s fantastic that you support women, in making sure they don’t feel alone afterward.
S: Thank you. I always check it out with my clients: “What is going to be your plan for support afterwards? Do you have family around? Who are going to be your main people that you can call?”
And then after the birth, I check in with clients, and check in on the mothers that I feel need a bit more support. I always ask “are you enjoying your baby?” But I also be sure to ask “are you enjoying your life, overall?” Because that question will open the dialogue to what’s not so good in their life and then you can help them where they need help.
I do offer services where I go into the home and help afterward. I’ve had a number of people take me up on it. Many times, I go and sit and they talk. I might do the dishes and I might sweep the floor but most of it is sitting and talking about how they are doing. I offer reassurance that it’s okay to have a busy two-year-old and a newborn, because I needed that. I try to fill in the gaps where I’m needed, where I see lots of women need it. It’s back and forth.
A: That must make for some great connections and bonds with these mothers.
S: Absolutely. I actually just got a message the other day from one of my clients, with a baby picture. I get baby pictures all the time from people and clients. I love it.
A: In addition to your help and support, what else do you think new moms need?
S: I think new moms need to have real conversations. To not talk about the superficial stuff. But the question becomes about how to get those conversations going without women feeling judged.
A: So they can be completely open and honest…to genuinely connect with others.
S: Exactly. Eventually I plan to run some postpartum support groups; not even just postpartum depression support groups, but postpartum groups. Have times and places where women who have babies under six months can go and be around other women who have babies under six months.
A: To just go and be.
S: Yes. To talk about their births. To talk about all of the good things, but to also talk about breast-feeding struggles, formula feeding struggles, diaper struggles. The sleep struggles, and the sleep victories: “My baby slept for five hours, yay!”
A: And they wake up to check that their baby is still breathing, because five hours is a long time.
S: Yes! Because that first night you always do. Your baby might sleep through the night five hours but you won’t.
A: I can only imagine.
Interviewer’s note: as we started to wrap up, Sheila grabbed some of the decals from our Mental Health Collection that were lying on the table (I didn’t even ask her to). She got excited and said: "See, these are awesome! They are perfect for new moms."
A: So you like our Mental Health Collection? We’re really proud of it. How do you think it would help moms?
S: I do like it! It’s fantastic. The sticker that says: “it’s okay to not be okay.” That is the perfect saying for postpartum because there’s so much pressure on moms to be okay. To smile, to be good, to be picture perfect. It’s like no; it’s okay to not be okay. I love that sticker. It’s at home around my computer.
A: It’s so simple, but if you can remember that, you stop beating yourself up.
S: Yes! And this one: “you are enough.” For moms, you are enough for your baby. But it’s a big question that sticks in your head. Are you good enough of a mom, in general? Are you good enough of a mom if you don’t buy this formula? If you have breastfeeding struggles? Any of that.
A: You would second guess every single decision you make.
S: Every single decision is told to you and sold to you in so many ways that you are not good enough unless you do all of these things. The truth is you are good enough in every flawed way possible. Because those babies don’t need somebody who is perfect. They just need someone to love them and to hold them and do as good as they can. If you screw up, simply say sorry and go on.
A: Hell yeah!
S: Right? Because that’s all I could have done, that’s all I did, that’s all I can do moving forward: keep saying sorry, keep going on.
A: Keep going, keep moving. I have to say: this conversation has been inspirational. Your honesty once again reminds me of how normal it is, to go through all the doubts and ups and downs. To maybe have issues with your mental health…and how that’s okay. Thanks for sitting down to talk to me.
S: Thank you.
A: The more I have these conversations the more I realize that we are all in this together. All of us. We all go through stuff, and hiding it doesn’t help.
S: Oh, the shame monster.
A: Yes! So, to just talk openly about this, it’s pretty amazing. I hope that it becomes normal.
S: Me too!
A: I think it will. Thanks again Sheila. You rock.
S: You rock too.
We want to extend a thank you and big squishy hug to Sheila. She has enabled our conversations around mental health to continue with honesty and grace, and we are grateful for her.
If you want to check out Sheila's services, click here!
We'd like to extend a 25% discount to you on the Mental Health Collection (simply use discount code MHC25), until August 31. If you know of a Mom that needs a little extra boost, this Collection is an easy way to say 'hey, I'm thinking of you. You've got this.'
Thank you for all of your support on this Mental Health Series. We will have a few more guests in the coming weeks, speaking about different aspects of mental health. It's going to be amazing!
Lastly, we hope this inspires you to have honest conversations about your mental health. Starting conversations has always been our goal with the Mental Health Collection, so if we can support you in doing that, our hearts are happy.
Amanda, Rebecca and the entire Grounded Goodness Team