Welcome to Mompreneur Monday where we introduce you to Mom-Based businesses in Lake County.
Today we are meeting one of our Green Resource Guide practitioner’s Shannon McKenzie of Joyful Journey Doula Services and Childbirth Education.
Shannon McKenzie’s passion for her work and her family is apparent to all who meet her. Not only is she an amazing childbirth educator and doula but she is also a pretty fantastic person with that undeniable positive energy that just draws people to her. For those of you who do not know what a doula does, the answer is as varied and individual as every birth. A doula is there to support a mom as she gives birth. She can be an advocate, a confidant, a cheerleader, a masseuse, a gopher even, or a little bit of everything all wrapped into one compassionate body. I should know, I hired a doula for the birth of my second child, a homebirth which was simply beautiful, and my doula (not Shannon, she was not yet a doula) was my rock and allowed my husband to really be there and engaged while also leaving to help care for my daughter when he needed to, knowing I was in good hands all the while. If you are pregnant, whether you are having your first or fifth child, I encourage you to consider hiring a doula, they really can make a tremendous difference. Even if you are not interested in having a doula, a comprehensive childbirth class can truly prepare you for a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself:
I am the lucky mother of two wonderful little boys (Ki – 5, and Breckin – 3). I’m originally from Indiana, but now live in Libertyville. I love all animals, especially horses and dogs (we currently have 2 dogs at home, Layla and Mango), and in my spare time I enjoy playing with my boys and spending time with my boyfriend, being outdoors, camping, hiking, doing yoga, being active (I recently completed my first triathlon!), meditating, and scrapbooking. I became a “birth junkie” while pregnant with my first child, and after two amazing, empowering, life-changing, natural births (one in hospital, one at home), decided to help other parents on their journey to welcoming their little ones into the world.
What is a doula?
A doula is a non-medical, labor support person. We assist families by providing education and information, attending to a laboring mother’s physical and emotional needs, giving suggestions and ideas to help labor progress effectively with less discomfort (positions changes, comfort techniques, etc.), and supporting their personal birth preferences and outcomes.
Why did you decide to become a doula?
I was very blessed to have two amazing birth experiences, but positive birth stories are clearly not the norm in our culture, which is so disheartening. I wanted to do my part to let women know that good births ARE possible – and help them have those kinds of empowering birth stories as well.
What benefits are there to having an experienced doula participate in your pregnancy/labor/post-delivery process as opposed to relying on your spouse/partner/family etc?
There is plenty of “work” for two people to assist with at a birth! Doulas are in no way there to take the place of a spouse/partner, but simply to assist with all there is to do, and to help make your partner feel more confident in participating. Men especially are often intimidated by birth – afraid they won’t know what to do to help, or not remember all of the information they learned in a childbirth class, so typically, my presence allows them to relax, enjoy the birthing experience more with less pressure, which enables them to do what they do best – which is be the loving partner of the mom. I can then use my birth knowledge and experience to give suggestions for position changes or comfort measures based on the mom’s specific labor challenges, help decide the best time to go to the hospital, help translate medical-speak regarding possible interventions or complications that may arise, and be there to give the partner a break if they need to make phone calls, eat, or go to the bathroom!
What is the best thing about your job, and what is the worst thing about your job?
I love watching the people I work with for months and have developed a relationship with become parents, become a family in a new way! I love being there to try to help make a labor easier for mom however I can. But, the very best part of my job is that moment right after a baby is born – when the room is overflowing with joy and excitement. The look of pure love on mom and dad’s face, the moment where you know that a miracle has just taken place and you were lucky enough to be apart of it. A close second are those moments in deep, hard labor, when a partner is there supporting the laboring mom, and you are able to witness their love for each other in action – the small kisses, the way they look in each other’s eyes, the way a mom leans into her partner for strength – it is all so touching and beautiful and it is such a privilege to be there during those extremely intimate moments.
But it is a tough job as well – the hardest part is simply the unpredictable nature of our work. You never know if a baby will come 3 weeks before, or 2 weeks after its due date (but we must be ready at all times, day and night, for either!); You don’t know if we’ll be rushing in the car, barely making it to a 2 hr birth, or if you’ll be there for over 24 hours. As a single mother of young children, this is the hardest part for me. Birth work is also inherently physically and emotionally draining – but I do it because I love it!
How do you balance working outside of the home and raising a family/managing a household?
I’m a single mom of a 3 & 5 year old, and have 2 jobs – so It is a constant juggling act! I do have to make conscious efforts not to over-book myself (its SO hard to have to tell a client that I’m all booked up during their due date!) – or over-schedule my children. I have no extended family in the area, so have to rely on a large network of sitters and friends to help out in a pinch. I have to allow my house to be messy, and certain less important things to fall by the wayside so I can make sure to spend as much quality time with my children as possible and keep my internal cup full. I try to prioritize my time and energy – my kids, my emotional/physical well-being, my jobs, and my relationship being at the top of the list.
What do you do to recharge?
After a very busy first year as a doula (with around 20 births, many that were over 20 hours long), I finally could see why this profession had a high level of “burn out” – and I slowly learned the importance of self-care. I now make sure to keep myself more balanced – I carve time out for myself (usually to spent time outside, do yoga, or work out), time with my partner for fun, and lots of quality time with my children. I also practice mindfulness and Buddhist meditation in order to stay more grounded and present with all my life has to offer.
What inspires you?
People who live very heart-centered, authentic lives, dedicated to service and love. Being in nature. Reading books and articles from people like Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, and Brene Brown. Watching my children – and reveling in the joy and love they radiate. The birthing moms I work with and the strength and grace they display.
Do you have any upcoming classes or events?
I have another Joyful Childbirth preparation series beginning in early December. We meet on Sunday afternoons for four weeks from 2-5pm in Libertyville. I also offer classes in specific topics including advances comfort measures, cloth diapering, baby wearing and more. Check out my website for more information on classes and dates.
To contact Shannon and learn more about her services:
Joyful Journey Doula Services and Childbirth Education