Melissa Best Chats with MHW about being a Mother, Doula & Creator
I'm excited to share today's interview with you, featuring Melissa Best - a wife and mom of 2, doula, and creator. Melissa is a fellow Canadian, and though I became connected with her through Instagram, ironically we live just about an hour down the highway from each other! Melissa kindly agreed to answer my questions about her work as a birth doula, her passion projects, and motherhood.
Name: Melissa Best
Location: Hamilton, Ontario
Occupation: Part-time stay-at-home mom, part-time doula, part-time creator
ON FAMILY LIFE
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family!
My husband Dan and I dated for a year, were engaged for 5 months, and have now been married for 4.5 years. We have an almost 3 year old named Theodore and a 2 month old baby named Joanie. I’ve lived in Hamilton for almost 10 years, and grew up in Kingston, Ontario. I’m an extravert for sure, but the older I’ve gotten, the more sacred and necessary I find quiet time.
What does a "typical" day look like in your household?
It’s so hard to describe a typical day because we have a weird routine. So, instead I’ll say that Theodore goes to daycare Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we just have one car as a family, so I usually do errands on Thursdays, while Tuesdays are my day at home with just Joanie. That’s the day I get in most forms of self-care. I try to get chores, groceries, and meal planning done on Mondays when Dan is done from work so that the rest of the week is a bit smoother.
Tell us about your work as a doula. How did you get into the field?
As a teenager, I remember being very fascinated with birth. I loved babies, and was in awe of pregnant women. I loved the thought of a career that could combine these two things. I never really thought of the doula path until after I was out of my university undergrad, which was in Psychology, and I’d gone through pregnancy and birth with my son. I realized that I loved our birth classes, couldn’t wait to learn more, and that I could spend hours talking to my pregnant friends and wanting to support them as much as I could during this exciting and sometimes very challenging time in their life as they anticipate and then adjust to their new babies.
So, I began pursuing training through ProDoula and have now completed both the labor and birth training, as well as the postpartum and infant care training. It has been a pleasure to attend so many births in my first 2 years, and I’m excited to get back to it once our family is ready for me to do that again.
What advice would you give to expectant mothers who are nearing the end of their pregnancies and are nervous about giving birth?
First, congratulations! You are so close to meeting your beautiful baby and discovering their little toes, nose and squishy face. That is so exciting!
Second, whenever you get nervous, practice taking deep slow breaths. With each breath, visualize what the moment will be like when they pass your beautiful baby to you, when you first hear your baby cry, or when you gaze into his or her eyes for the first time. Try to picture each of these experiences with your eyes closed and make that a practice. When you begin to labor, you can then use that as a coping mechanism, to go to your quiet place with deep breaths, and remember that each contraction is bringing you closer to that beautiful baby! Women are so incredibly resilient, and even if you don’t feel strong in the moment, you are stronger than you know. You can do this!
ON PASSION PROJECTS
In addition to your work as a doula, you also own an Etsy shop! What inspired you to start Little Nest Embroidery?
The answer to this question is totally tied to the question you asked below, which is, “How do you recharge when you have a moment to yourself?” So, I'll answer that here as well. Especially in the winter with babies when I don’t want to get outside, or if the kids are napping, I make stuff!
Some friends kept commenting on the simple embroidery I made, and a few said they wanted to buy some, so I thought I might as well put it on Etsy to just try it out, and it’s been great! I get bored when I do the same kind of creative work over and over though, so I’ve expanded now to selling some hand sewn baby clothes and little knit items.
How do you make time for this creative endeavour?
The biggest thing is recognizing the seasons in my life and remembering in the morning when I look at my to do list that I can’t do it all - and I don’t do it all. The day that I sit down at my sewing machine when the kids are napping is not the same day that I get caught up on laundry and have a hot meal ready at 5:30 pm. Similarly, the day that I post to Instagram is not the same day that I shower and curl my hair. Also, some crafts are much easier to do as part of a daily rhythm, like knitting. I can knit or do embroidery when I’m watching a show with Dan, or on a trip in the car, for example. So, I usually have a little craft to take around with me because I have realized how important being creative is to me as a form of self-care.
What is one thing you're struggling with as a mother right now (if you're comfortable sharing)?
Something that I’m struggling with right now as a mother, hmm, that’s a good question. Here’s some real talk. My husband is a very gentle caregiver to our kids. He has a soft calming voice, he is sweet, and he seems to have a never-ending jar of patience somewhere inside him. There were some days, especially in the first month of being a mom to 2, when I was so tired and it felt like Theodore was finding every possible way to irritate me. I didn’t like who I was in my interactions with him and I’d feel terrible that I was continually correcting him. He’d whine and flop around, as toddlers do. Then Dan would walk in the door from work and he was so kind and fun. It’s lovely to see that, of course, but I also couldn’t help but feel immense guilt for feeling the feelings I felt toward our precious son who I love and adore - as well as jealousy for my well-slept, gracious and non-housebound husband who was able to sweep in and save the day. As the days go on and we are all adjusting, those feelings are subsiding, but I do continue to pray against these feelings of jealousy and guilt.
What inspires you right now, be it something you've read lately, someone you've met, a hobby you've taken up, or something else entirely?
Something that inspires me right now is probably the book “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. It was over a year ago that I read it for the second time, and the concepts come to my mind on a weekly basis. It talks about the idea of being able to stop striving for a perfect life, and instead hoping for connection and deep relationships. It's about living an honest, authentic life. Freeing myself from the expectation of being able to do it all has allowed me to feel peace in the areas of my life that aren’t together - and to take each day at a time. It's about community over competition. Come just as you are. Stay and linger. I want our home and our lives to open up that space for others.
What is your favourite activity to do with your kids/family?
One of my favourite activities to do with Theodore is probably baking when we aren’t on a time schedule. Ever since Theodore was 18 months old - maybe even younger - I’d just plunk him on the kitchen floor with a bowl and stirring spoon in front of him, and he’d stir while I add the ingredients one by one. It’s easy to sweep up afterwards, and he has gotten more and more confident in that space with me. I love that we can do it together, and then after nap time we enjoy our delicious treat.