Our 5Qs series is a chance for the SGN members to know more about folks in the community, where we pose 5 questions to exciting individuals to find out more about what they do.
This Mother’s Day, Bay Area-based doula and birth photographer Cherie Seah recounts her unique experience of witnessing the miracle of birth numerous times. She shares the strong bonds built with her birthing clients and reveals her deep ties to Singapore through food and family.
30 April 2021 / By SGN
Tell us a bit about yourself – what brought you to the U.S.?
I am an Asian doula and photographer based in Oakland, California for the past seven years. I have two kids aged 3 & 5 and another one on the way. Seven years ago, as a newly married young couple in Singapore, my husband and I decided to have more adventure in our lives and wanted to experience living elsewhere for a change. On a whim, he suggested California and before we knew it, we got our visas and booked our tickets, and found our home in Oakland.
What does a typical day as an Asian doula look like?
First, let me explain what a doula is. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support for the birthing person and their birth team (spouses/partners/kids) throughout the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. Doulas are not midwives because we don’t conduct anything medical. While most people hire doulas for their extensive birth knowledge, any person can be chosen as a doula – sister, best friend, cousin, mother, or aunt.
I refer to myself specifically as an Asian doula as I focus my support on people like myself, immigrants or Asian Americans who find themselves caught between Eastern culture and traditions, and Western society. Most of my clients are Asians, and I offer a more cultural approach with my services, like confinement or zuo yuezi (坐月子) in postpartum. I’m also very skilled in communicating with Asian parents who often have an opinion on how things should or shouldn’t be done! I spend a lot of time building client relationships, sharing the birthing process, and understanding their birth vision. I attend all kinds of births – home, hospital, and birthing centers. It’s a very intimate and hands-on job during labour, I’m either massaging, gently touching or squeezing hands throughout the whole labour process.
I’m usually on-call during pregnancy weeks 37-42, which means during that period, I have to be ready at a moment’s notice when a client calls to tell me they are in labour! I support them from the moment they call me in until the baby is born, and this can take anywhere between 5 and 24 hours.
What keeps you going on the journey?
Birth is innately beautiful. It is life in its purest form – raw, primal, intense, and astonishing. It is also very personal and private, where a person is experiencing something unique for the first time since each birth is different. Being invited to share in such an extraordinary space and witness life being born is one of life’s highest honours and I am always grateful to share in it. I take great pride in knowing that a strong bond is built between my clients and I am always humbled when they turn their eyes to me, searching for comfort and strength during what feels like forever.
I never fail to shed a tear once the baby is born. It is one of life’s true miracles and it teaches me to never take life for granted. Also, the oxytocin high that spreads in a room once a baby is born is incredible! I mean, who doesn’t love newborn babies?
What do you do to relax?
My family and I enjoy being outdoors a lot, and we are so blessed that the Bay Area offers many great hiking and beach options that are just a stone’s throw away. I really love spending time with my family exploring new spaces, or just being together. When I have time to myself, I enjoy crafting, sewing or just Netflix and chill. I once sewed almost 50 capes to raise funds for kids held in detention centers. We raised over $2,000 and it was worth it, but I swore never to sew another cape after that.
How do you stay connected to Singapore?
Being Singaporean, food is life. Before the pandemic, my family and I would return to Singapore at least once a year. My Godma taught me how to cook some of my favourite Peranakan dishes, and when I have time, I like to cook up a storm. Being pregnant, I miss all the local foods and try to cook as much as I can. Some of my kids’ favourites are bak kut teh (I add daikon), tau you bak and kueh kueh like onde onde and rainbow kueh lapis sago! But thank goodness for folks like Da Bao Singapore and Mama Judy for their great cooking skills, their food brings me back to Singapore.
Specialising in family, maternity, newborn and birth photography, Cherie is happy to offer an exclusive 15% discount for SGN members on photography services. Reach out by email and mention “SCOOP”.
Follow Cherie’s activities:
Website: www.earthshinedoula.com/, www.asianbirthcollective.com/
Instagram: earthshinedoula, Asianbirthcollective
Facebook: www.facebook.com/earthshinedoula/, www.facebook.com/AsianBirthCollective/