SHANNON & NICOLE’S STORIES
Sometimes we are intrinsically called to a certain life path through the joy and elation sparked from an experience with travel, with the pleasure of being of service, or through a deep bond with a loved one. Sometimes, great challenge and suffering can propel us to our unique and unexpected calling in life. The sheer rawness and difficulty of an experience can move us in our core and magnetized us in such a powerful way that it easily leads us to our life’s work.
We have both asked ourselves and each other why we do the work we do, as we are passionately called to work with women struggling with infertility, pregnancy related problems, labor, postpartum and adjusting to life as a parent. It is in our life experiences and story of becoming parents where the answer lies.
I can’t say I have personally been through fertility challenges of my own, but have known countless women both professionally and personally who have endured this deep longing for a child and struggled to achieve pregnancy for different various reasons. I do think there is universal commonality in surrendering within the experiences of trying to achieve pregnancy, going through labor, healing from some of the physical and emotional trauma from labor, recovering postpartum, and transitioning into being a parent.
For some time I was unconsciously compelled to work with women though all the joy and deep pain these life transitions can bring. I found myself wondering why at certain junctures. I know through and through that this work brings complete joy and fulfillment to my life, but the question I have asked is why has it been so fulfilling for me?
I have one beautiful child that I love with all my heart and soul. But my experience with labor was quite long and difficult, and painful in such a way that I literally thought my body would rip into pieces. I experienced back labor for up to 16 hours and had a long pushing phase of 3 hours. I am in no way complaining about my wonderful home birth I got to have, but am stating both sides of the coin. It was beautiful, powerful, encouraging, exhausting, terrifying at moments, and honestly the hardest thing I have ever done. With that said, I wouldn’t of have wanted my birth experience to be any different. It was the most amazing and difficult thing I have ever gone through.
I then had a beautiful, yet colicky, baby for a good long while with serious 2 year lap of sleep deprivation. It was the kind of sleep deprivation where I would forget what I was saying midsentence and at times had emotional break downs due to lack of sleep. Having a child has deepened and enriched my life in such inexplicable and life altering ways, I am so grateful for to be a mother. And yet with this spectrum of feelings and dedicating my life’s work to empowering and be part of the healing process for women, I have little desire to be pregnant or go through labor again. Instead, I am called at my core to spend this energy help make this process easier for women, babies, and families.
At the very root of all of these life experiences is a deep surrender and a deep letting go of control. Touching in on and experiencing something so innately primal ranging from desiring a baby, to enduring a long difficult labor, to healing from the trauma of our labor, to loving another being in such an incredible and profound way allows for a deep selflessness and compassion for ourselves and others.
In this deep surrender, love, compassion, and strength I see and know from my collective experience in going through this process that I find myself compelled to make this process easier for women. Whether it’s lending a hand to the mom in the store with her screaming toddler, helping women initiate labor so that they can potentially have the labor and birth they desire, helping a women achieve pregnancy, and or supporting women through miscarriages, I am compassionately driven, present, and am living my life with purpose.
I continue to work with women in this sacred space of supporting them with acupuncture, herbs, intuitive work, listening, or providing compassion and understanding. My experience has really triggered a deep innate desire to be present and committed to this process for other women. This is where our difficult experience can be so completely transformative in the way we engage and support others in the world. Had it not been for the collective experience I had I would not be here today writing this. So grateful for ALL of it!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a huge heart for people. I am passionate about making a difference in others’ lives and I have spent my whole life in this pursuit. I planned to become a counselor as I grew up. With this in mind, I created peer counseling and survivor programs in my middle and high schools. During high school and college years, I began fundraising for Greenpeace, Muscular Dystrophy, and Universal Health Care reform.
I moved to Chicago to model while continuing college and found that I enjoyed promoting the struggling fashion designers and photographers rather than modeling myself. Then I was offered the opportunity to scout and place models with agencies around the world, hoping to help make their dreams a reality. There came a turning point when I felt I needed to pursue other avenues besides the modeling industry to improve the lives of people. I tried Corporate America, building a start-up business into a billion dollar company, establishing internal communications while developing guiding principles and overall vision during their expansion.
What I didn’t know at the time was that one of my greatest opportunities in fulfilling my purpose was just an early birth away. Everything changed when I went into labor at six months (25 weeks) and gave birth to twins weighing 1 lb. 10 oz. and 1 lb. 11 oz. That event truly changed the course of my life! It was there in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when I spent five months holding my babies’ skin to my skin that I learned what a healing difference touch provides! As I watched them flourish, growing and getting stronger each and every day I held them, I was in the presence of miracles. I knew that this ability was a gift and an honor. Shortly after the boys came home from the NICU, I was inspired by an infant massage therapist who taught me to massage my boys.
I moved my family back to Madison, Wisconsin, to learn massage therapy, another lifelong passion. I studied under a renowned Chinese doctor and acupuncturist and became certified in Chinese and Western massage. I learned even more about the miraculous power of touch and the healing available through Chinese medicine and acupressure. I knew that I wanted to work with pregnant women, so I studied under an amazing RN, midwife and therapist, and became certified in prenatal and postpartum massage.
After my training, I went on to work in an acupuncture fertility center for several years providing fertility, pregnancy and postpartum massage. During that time, I also worked in a chronic pain center working to improve the lives of those struggling with extreme pain. Before opening my own business, I worked in a spa and had the opportunity as a therapist to introduce many to their first massage, also through a public relations and marketing position I worked to build Corporate America’s understanding of the benefits of employee wellness. Many companies learned they could increase retention and productivity by utilizing holistic and preventive care therapies such as chair massage, acupuncture, nutrition, yoga, and Chinese Medicine.
One of my greatest joys (outside of my twin boys) has been teaching prenatal massage to massage students and prenatal and labor support massage to pregnant couples. I also have the honor of providing acupressure and labor support massage in the delivery room. I take advantage of every opportunity to provide seminars educating others on the benefits of massage, pre-term labor symptoms, and showing how a pain-free pregnancy is absolutely possible!
I have had the great privilege of living out my dream and have owned my own massage therapy business, A Healer’s Hand since 2007 till now. In 2013 I had the profound opportunity to partner with Shannon Gyles of Madison Acupuncture and Holistic Health. By combining our expertise and businesses we were able to create Sacred Healing Center. To better serve our greater passion and vision of providing comprehensive therapies to women and their families throughout fertility, pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care.
Our center now offers not only massage and acupuncture, but chiropractic, nutrition, doula and infant massage therapies. I could not be more proud and humbled to work with such extraordinary professionals and clients! I am grateful that I am able to fulfill my life’s pursuit and know this is just the beginning.