In the midst of a partial lockdown, Shirley opened her home to branayama for a chat on pregnancy, career and allowing new cycles to take place in her life. During the time of the interview, Shirley was still pregnant with her 3rd child - now an adorable and healthy baby girl.
Current state of mind?
The word of the moment is pivoting. I recently had to close my business, Wunderhaus, and right now I am working on pivoting the concept into a digital community. It was hard to remain open because the whole concept revolved around bringing people together and it was impossible to predict how things would move forward with Covid. Overall, I think 2020 had its ups and downs. I got pregnant with my 3rd child, so I have been super happy, but I also felt the stress and anxiety. It was not the most comfortable time to be pregnant.
During your pregnancy, did you have any rituals that helped you navigate uneasy moments and focus on yourself and your journey?
I would wake up super early in the morning, and at that time usually everything was quiet and the baby was moving. So I would just feel the baby move. And that made me so happy. This pregnancy was such a different journey, and I am so thankful every day.
You had your first child in your 20s, second child in your 30s and now your third child in your 40s. That alone makes for different pregnancy journeys. What was it like then and what was it like now, to be pregnant?
The three stages in my life are really so, so different. When I had my first daughter, Michaela, I had so much energy and was just so excited to become a mother. With my second, Bella, I waited a long time. I wanted to meet the right person, so when it all happened, I was super happy and did not think much about it all. But this time I had to go through IVF, and it has been a completely different experience from the beginning. I was so amazed every day to be growing this life inside of me. And I was so much more intentional and conscious of everything. But I was also so much more exhausted, and I did not experience that with the previous pregnancies.
As a mother of two and an entrepreneur running a business, how was the decision process of having a third child?
I’ve always known I wanted to have more children after my first. When I met my husband, from the very beginning I said "I want to be married, and I want to have a baby [laughter]," he's younger than me, so I am happy he didn’t run away after I said that! Once we got engaged I didn't mind having a baby first and having the wedding after. That was my second child. After that, I knew I still wanted to have at least one more child. Then I had a miscarriage, about three years ago. I was entering my mid-40s. After that, we tried and we tried, and it was not happening. The doctor said we probably had to wait about a year after the miscarriage to try again, but still… it was not happening. So we decided to meet with the IVF doctors. But for some reason, I was just so in my head about my own fertility that I did not think I needed to go through that process. I abandoned the IVF idea and decided to keep trying in my own ways. I tried all the Ayurvedic ways, and many other ways. And essentially, I kind of wasted time [laughter]. I had to shift this strong belief I had in my own fertility. I realized I had to go back to the IVF clinic and get extra help if I wanted to make it happen. And I was lucky enough that it happened on the first try! And I love my work, so I never thought I would have to give one thing up for another. I had this vision of being at Wunderhaus and working through the day with my baby strapped to my chest. So now I will try to still do that, but at home on my computer - planning projects to bring the community together as things hopefully get back to normal.
Tell us a bit about the idea and inspiration behind Wunderhaus
Wunderhaus was founded in 2017, and the idea was to create a space to connect mothers. When Bella was a baby, I had just moved to Berlin, and I didn’t know anyone. I started looking into spaces I could go to with her, but all I found were places that offered activities for babies and nothing for the parents. I knew how hard it was to have a baby and how it could be very isolating, especially in a new city. The vision was to create a space for moms to connect easily, eat healthy food, and relax - while their babies had a safe space to play in the childcare space. It was a grand idea.
like a club for moms…
Exactly. It was really, really fun and great when we started. All the classes were great, lots of community events, and a great team. But entering a new market (Germany) was not so easy. It was not easy because we didn’t expect to have to convince people that what we were doing was a good thing. While in markets such as the US or UK people are excited about new ideas, in Germany this concept that mothers can also care about themselves was met with some resistance. Luckily we got a lot of publicity and love in the international community and some local support as well, so we kept growing.
And now you are taking a new step with the Wunderhaus brand, correct?
The physical location is closed for good, but the brand itself is not, because I have such a big community, still. I see our members every day, when I'm walking in my neighborhood, and everyone tells me how much they miss it, and how they had such a wonderful experience there.
Looking back now, how do you feel about closing that chapter and closing your business?
When I made the decision, I was really sad, but I knew that it wasn't going to work, because we were dependent on bringing people together. It was hard because I really put a lot of love and attention into the design, finding all the pieces (some things are now in my home), finding the right classes and instructors and the amazing staff.
And it was very hard to let go of the community, because they were so great. All the moms who came to visit were so grateful for the chance to have a moment to themselves. Many were there every day and I have seen their families grow, mothers get back to work, meeting new friends and starting new businesses. But, during all of this, I was also going through my own personal journey with the IVF, which helped me to stay positive about the future. I was able to let it go, because I really wanted my pregnancy to be successful. I have many ideas for Wunderhaus, like partnering with brands to create popup versions, and I might open something small again one day.
Being pregnant 3 times at different stages of life, getting pregnant through IVF and planning a birth during a pandemic are each very intense experiences and you’ve been through it all. Any learnings you would like to share?
Being pregnant is a wonderful, beautiful but sometimes difficult journey. It does not matter if it is your first time, second, third... Which is why I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a great support system - either through family, friends or even professionals like a midwife/doula. It does take a village.
There are also so many interesting brands and female-run businesses creating great platforms and innovative products focusing on the wellbeing of mothers. I am trying my best to use my social channels to promote everyone – these are crazy times and I know what it’s like to lose a business to the pandemic - so, if I can support them, that is a great thing. There is a lot of love, passion, sweat and tears behind those businesses, especially those founded by women.