Posted on June 06 2017


SHANAY & IYLA, this duo has my heart, they’ve got the ability to reel you into their world and make you feel so warm, just by looking at them; their love bubble is contagious. The first time I interviewed Shanay, 4 years ago now, she had only just birthed her daughter, Iyla, and spoke about her birthing experience as though it were the light that now illuminated her from the inside out. Shanay followed a call, from within her, to create a career for herself, inside of the world of birthing. She was a working model, living in New York City, who dreamed to share the experience of child birth with other women, being there to support them, and inspire them, from pregnancy right through to birth.  Today, Shanay does just that, and i’m honoured, with a huge smile on my face, to share her story.  




Words & Interview SOPHIE RENZEN


What were you doing both before you became a Doula, and before you became a Mother?

I was modelling in New York, it's the only job I had for 10 years. I'm juggling the 3 (Mum, doula and model) at the moment which is crazy because they both have unpredictable schedules. I'm a full secret agent living a double life! 



Do you think you would have remained happy in your modelling career, had you not followed the call to become a doula?

I think I would have been happy whatever I had done, it's hard to answer. I enjoy modelling and love being a different character for a day, but being a Mother and a Doula changes the way you think, I guess in terms of what's real and what's not. So it's giving me a different perspective on modelling. 



Can you explain in your words, what a Doula is and does?

We hold space for the mother during labour. We support the mother continuously throughout the pregnancy and labour, which includes emotional stability and comfort measures. Helping the new parents make informed decisions before the birth and on the day. Doula's lower the risk of interventions, c sections, and the need for pain medication. If I'm calm, the dads are calm!! I'm suggesting a lot during the births, and the labouring woman is in charge. I want her to be loved, heard and respected during the process.

We are also non medical so we are trained in comfort measures, and know how birth works in all aspects! I work with all mothers regardless of their birth wishes. 



What happened, internally, how did you grow as a person, after Iyla was born?

 I think the birth changed me, I felt so empowered by her birth and felt that I could do anything. Being a mother is such a selfless act, I grew quickly, and I didn't have any family around to help me, so that also played a huge role in my growth. I'm still growing and have a lot to learn still. A Mother's time is precious so I tend to surround myself with happy people, who have good vibes. I feel I definitely got in touch with my intuition more after becoming a mother, and a doula. It's all about the vibes and energy! 



Can you remember what it was that sparked your interest, and urged you to explore this new career path? 

My birth, and my Doula. She was a true inspiration to me, and still is, she brings so much to the birth system today. Some people tend to talk negatively about such a natural thing, only because they don't know enough about it. Lack of informed education and the media play a big part. I not only want to improve how woman think and feel about birth, but also bring the power back to her.  After I had Iyla, I almost felt bad that I had such an amazing experience. It's a story that will stick with me forever, and at that time, I just couldn't stop thinking about birth and how important it is to the Mother, in a deeper way. I finished breastfeeding and did my training with DONA International! 


Was there ever a specific moment that made you realise, “yes, this is my path, this is what i’m supposed to be doing with my life”?
I felt that in my training in Austria, we trained in a red tent, which sent me totally out of my comfort zone! I mean I can be hippy but this was next level. So many strong women, and what I was learning was mind blowing. But it wasn't until I went to my 3rd birth, a friends birth. She birthed at a birth Centre and while her partner was resting, I massaged her back for 6 hours straight, she wouldn't let me leave and would call my name when another wave/contraction was coming to apply pressure to her back, I never gave up on her and it's that continuous support that labouring woman are so often missing. We all cried together when the baby was born and I said to myself, "I bloody love this job." Seeing the impact you have on these families is magic, they are so thankful, as well as I am, to have me part of this intimate journey with them. 


What’s your take on discovering your dream job and then pursuing it, do you have any advice for women, Mothers in particular, struggling to make this transition?

I waited until Iyla was about 2 before starting to study, there is no way I could have done it earlier. I would never have started this job if I was a single mum like I am now. Wow! It's so hard being a single mum and being a doula, but some crazy way it all works! Trust your journey and the process. I think you need to see how old your child is, what support you have around you, if it's financially ok for you at the time, starting a business is super scary and making it a successful one is a lot of pressure! But I had no doubt because I knew it was right. 



What was the road like, while you were mothering and studying, what were things like for you at that time in your life?

Iyla was half time in daycare so I would spend all day studying and then when she went to bed, I had time to do so as well. I think when you love the subject you will make it work. I was juggling at that stage my study, modelling and being a mother, but mostly I was being a mother. It took me about a year to finish, which included 10+ births that year. My relationship wasn't great at the time, and I think I had just finished my certification, so I had a lot running through my brain, but in the end, I took on Doula work full time and became a single mum!


What is it like for you now, how has everything changed since you have entered this new world? 
Massive shift movements for sure! I am forever practicing self care because keeping yourself present is so important for Iyla and my clients!  My friends are my angels, they sleep over when I'm on call, and if I need to leave during early hours they are here. It's still hard I guess, finding calmness in the madness, but I have some beautiful people in my life right now. 


What does it feel like to have a job, that you’re both passionate about, and know you were born to do?

 It's everything. But of course sometimes in your life you get thrown these extra curve balls, and sometimes you have to choose between your passion and what makes you more money.



You’ve witnessed so many births, assisted so many Mothers to engage positively in their birthing experience; what have you learned, what wisdom have you gained from bearing witness to all of these separate births?

Well I'm nearly at 40 births!! And I'm happy to say that every single one of them has been different. I've learned that the power is inside of them, you can read and prepare but it's your mind that you really need to prepare. Clear out those fears, doubts and worries. Education and informed decision making will put you back in power, if you don't know your options, you don't have any! Women are capable of so much more when they feel safe, secure, and loved, you can see them completely open up when they are offered this kind of support!



Where do you see yourself over the next ten years?

Still doing doula work and exploring other ventures of birth work! Lots of traveling, more children, a big backyard in the forest with a veggie patch and an old Holden Monaro. Hopefully living somewhere warm or having a holiday house somewhere warm!  



What message would you give to Iyla, if you could leave her with your greatest words of advice?

Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing yourself is enlightenment.

– Lao Zi




Iyla wears MARTA APRON 


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