Karen Laing is a mother, lactation consultant, midwife and educator, and the founder and president of Birthways—a Totally Awesome winner for best midwives & doulas in Chicago. The Birthways community of doulas is all about helping Chicago-area families feel confident and supported during pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. Here’s what Karen had to say about Birthways’ award-winning status, managing postpartum energy, and more:
Red Tricycle: Congratulations on being recently voted “Most Awesome” by your community! What do your customers value most about your business?
Karen Laing: Our clients value our personalized, compassionate, nonjudgmental approach and the breadth of our expertise. I hear nearly every day someone saying that they’ve been hoping to have this kind of conversation with someone about their pregnancy or parenting. It’s meaningful that we can create that space of safety and understanding.
RT: What inspired you to start your business?
KL: I started Birthways after being the Director for 3 years of the first postpartum doula organization in Chicago, Dana Mothercare. The company was closing, and I was in love with the work. The situation forced me to push forward without having time to fear or doubt myself.
RT: Any advice for new business owners just getting started?
KL: I’m a strong advocate for women to be entrepreneurs. I think it allows us an opportunity to create change in such a positive way, pushes us to be creative and there’s a lot of opportunity for personal growth. I’ve had to temper being a caregiver (my “natural” tendency), with being clear and focused as a leader. It’s not easy, but it’s a huge gift to have the opportunity to work through that.
RT: Can you give us some tips for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood?
KL: In traditional Chinese medicine how we manage our energy during the postpartum time is very important. If you deplete yourself, and don’t take it in with nourishment, rest, etc., you essentially never get it back. I wish I had done a better job of managing my energy as a young parent and had not taken on so much. Having your own business and being a parent will both ask a lot of you. You have to develop a tool, a way of listening to what your capacity is and to really honor your limits. Stop comparing yourself with others or looking out for where the bar should be. It’s only for you to know, and you have to be setting it with compassion and wisdom. I am a strong advocate of a yoga/meditation practice to keep yourself balanced, to stay well and to stay in the present moment. You’ll be more successful if you are finding this kind of balance.
RT: What is your proudest moment as a business owner or parent?
KL: When someone grabs my arm and says, “You helped us find our way, you brought a source of sanity when we were overwhelmed.” When I tell people what we do at Birthways, maybe they had their baby 20 years ago, but they pour their story out and say “I really needed someone like you.” I know that this is universally a transformative time. It’s an honor to be a part of it for so many families and to have such a powerful impact.
RT: Is there a special offer you’d like to include for Red Tricycle readers?
KL: Half off our Breastfeeding clinic, Breastfeeding 101, or half off our New Mom’s Support Clinic. This is a one-time special through 12/31/13. We can’t wait to see you!