My journey as a single mom, Doula, and Sleep Consultant

The story of a single mom.

Today we will be speaking with Erica Shane, After Third’s community builder and long time childbirth professional. Erica has always worked with families: she started as a professional nanny and after graduating from university, became a birth doula. She’s traveled extensively to study with midwives around the world and volunteered in places like rural Mexico and Indonesia. We’re honored to have her share her personal journey as a single mom with us today.

Single and pregnant, what type of support did you line up for yourself?

When I became pregnant, the first thing I thought was: How much money do I need to save for my maternity leave?! I reached out to my colleagues and let everyone know I was ready to work. I was lucky to bring in a few large postpartum gigs (daytime and overnight) while pregnant. The income helped me feel secure and start planning for my postnatal self-care! I hired two overnight postpartum doulas (in case one got sick), a daytime postpartum doula, and another doula who loved to cook. I also searched around for mother’s helpers, and young women who could come by and hold my son while I took a walk or went to grocery shop. And of course, I had my mom. She was a 3hr train ride away and would come in every other weekend!

In hindsight what would you have done differently?

I wish I had found full time, long term support for my son earlier on, with someone I really trusted. It would have allowed me to really let go of my mom role (and bring in self-care alone time), knowing he was not only safe but loved and in tune with someone else who was there 100%. As a former nanny I knew what it was like to fall in love with a child that wasn’t my own, and I wish I had searched for someone like this. At the same time, I will say that there are no regrets. My path is unique and perhaps we really were supposed to go along this entire journey together (all the time hand in hand!).

What does a good day look like for you? What does a tough day look like for you?

A good day starts with a restful night, at least eight hours of sleep, but nine hours are better. That means I have to fall asleep shortly after Akiva does. I wish I allowed this to happen more (instead of staying up). Often, I find myself thinking that work or reading eight articles can’t wait for tomorrow. I loved sleep before baby.  Sleep has become even more important because it is harder to be a parent when I am cranky. I don’t like yelling and becoming frustrated but it happens.

I like taking my son to a play space some mornings and being able to do some work while he socializes and climbs around. While he naps later, I might snooze too (if I’m zonked) or get some sleep coaching calls in, or other work I have to do. Working from home can be sweet because I can put my feet up, listen to music, or wear a cozy outfit. When my son wakes up, I can typically multitask with my work and making sure he is happy, or we go out for an excursion (I sort of love food shopping and going out for home necessities – I’m a natural stay at home mom).

What does self-care mean to you and how do you think it is different for you as a single mom?

Self care is so huge for me. When I don’t care for myself, I go downhill emotionally and very quickly. I need time in the bath, time to eat while sitting down, time to dream and think about myself and my business and life goals. As a single mom who doesn’t have childcare, who does it all on her own, I struggle with finding the balance, but then I remember to do one thing at a time. I love looking back and saying: Yes, I did that for myself this week! Good job!

What are the pieces of advice you give others that you personally struggle with the most for yourself?

I’m really good at reminding others to take time for themselves or ask for support when they need it most.  I stress the importance of routines and rituals for their children so the parents and their children sleep better. Sometimes I look at what is happening in my day and I say: Wow, if only I was on video right now and the world could see how imperfect it all is! We all have inconsistent days, and moments we wish looked prettier.

When I struggle, I remember I am not alone. So many moms past and present, have and are going through this. To become a parent you must transform into a version of yourself that your old self would never have been able to imagine or recognize. The transformation is like becoming a butterfly–but with roller coasters and deep journeys that don’t come with directions or road signs. When it feels tough, remember to breathe, to trust, to know it will be better tomorrow. You will feel better after a deep hug or a good convo with a friend or mentor.

As a seasoned doula and sleep consultant and single mom, what tips do you have for other single moms?

  1. Join a support group
  2. Keep in touch with old friends
  3. Tell folks exactly what you need
  4. Go to bed early
  5. Make a big batch of your favorite meal
  6. Bring ritual and routine to your child’s life
  7. Hang out with people you adore
  8. Journal and create art
  9. Cuddle with your child and share your dreams
  10. Take it easy, like is short, love what you are creating

About Erica

Erica Shane is a Postpartum Doula at Phoebe. Take a look at Phoebe. Our doula-led programs are amazing.

Erica is also a seasoned childbirth doula, CLC, and facilitator of virtual New Parent Support groups. She recently launched her Gentle Sleep Coaching practice, catered to parents who are exploring their own parenting styles & sleep goals. Erica guides her clients to naturally refine their own self-care while in her 4 week program. The well-being of the entire family is always at the center of her work.