Meet Labor Doula and Placenta Encapsulator in Denver, Sierra Shaffer

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Why are you a professional labor doula?

Being a professional labor doula is a perfect fit for my skills, interests, and passions! I have always felt a pull to do something with my life that involved helping others and contributing towards positive change in the world. Initially, I thought that meant a career in the nonprofit sector, and I spent a number of years at organizations focused on women’s human rights and women’s health. While those were great experiences and I have immense respect for the people I worked with, it was never quite the right match for how I wanted to be involved and what I hoped to give. When I learned about doulas, there was an immediate spark, and after my first training, things just fell into place. As a doula, I get to use critical thinking and intuition, support women one-on-one, and know that I’m making a difference for the families I serve. I also love being a placenta specialist because it’s an outlet for my creative side, I’m able to work with my hands, and I know that it’s helpful for many mamas!

What is your favorite part about being a doula?

It’s so amazing to witness each woman tap into her power and strength during pregnancy and birth – making and owning the choices that are right for her, getting in touch with and/or deepening her connection to her own body, and bringing new life into the world!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, and it was a perfect place to be a kid. My childhood home, where my parents still live, backs up to some open space where I spent tons of time exploring outside. I liked Boulder so much that I ended up staying there for college, and now that I’m based in Denver, I frequently go there to visit family and friends.

What is your favorite part about living in Denver, Colorado?

It’s so great living in Denver that I can’t choose just one favorite part! Between college and moving here, I spent a couple of years in New York City. That was a lot of fun, but I found the pace and the size to be a little overwhelming. In contrast, I like that Denver has many of the things that a big city has to offer, but retains something of a small town feel. I also love the thriving arts scene, the proximity to nature, and the preponderance of local coffee shops and microbreweries.

What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time when you are not attending births or preparing placentas?

Well, in addition to Doulas of Denver, I also work for a local Jewish community nonprofit and, while that's not technically my spare time, I value the connection that it gives me to my cultural heritage. When I’m not busy with either of those things, I enjoy going on outdoor adventures with my boyfriend Tom (we like to hike and camp, and he’s teaching me to mountain bike), doing arts and crafts projects, reading up a storm, visiting museums, going to concerts, and kicking back at happy hour with my friends.

What is your favorite food?

I don’t have a favorite food, but I could happily live off a Mediterranean-type diet of fresh fruits and veggies, rustic breads, pasta, flavorful cheeses, and, of course, gelato as a treat!

Who has inspired you in your life?

I come from a family of loving, creative, and interesting people who all inspire me in their own way. My mom is a former preschool director turned nonprofit leader and innovator; my dad is a lawyer, a self-taught photographer, and an active volunteer; my brother is a photographer and equipment manager at an art and fashion photography studio; my sister just graduated from art school and is headed for wonderful things; and that’s only my immediate family! They’ve all found unique paths to doing work that matters to them and has an impact, while supporting one another along the way -- and that has inspired me on my own journey.

Dogs or cats?

I am an animal lover so I have a soft spot for all creatures. Still, I have to say that I am a cat person. My kitty, Flora, is sweet, sassy, and silly, and when she’s curled up on my lap purring, it’s the coziest and most comforting thing in the world! I love that cats are playful, affectionate, and have their own personalities, while also being independent. That last point also makes them a good fit for the unpredictable life of a doula.

Watercolor or acrylic?

Really, my medium of choice has always been oil paints. They have such vibrant colors and luscious textures! However, oils are not very well suited for use outside of a designated studio, so I’ve had to branch out. Lately, I’ve been enjoying experimenting with watercolors. I used to dislike them because they can be difficult to control and it’s hard to paint over something if you make a mistake. Now I’m learning to work with, not against, the things that make watercolors special and to “go with the flow.” I feel like there’s a life lesson in there for me, too…

Where is one place you would like to visit in the world?

I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to travel for fun, school, work, and volunteering throughout my life. Still, there are so many places I’d like to go! One location that I’ve always wished to visit is Istanbul, Turkey and I’m beyond excited because I’ll actually be travelling there this spring! It has such an interesting history, combination of cultures, and artistic heritage, and I can’t wait to experience it in person. Some other dream destinations on my list include Iceland and Argentina.

What is something fascinating about you that many of your clients would be surprised to find out?

Something interesting about me is that music is a big part of my life even though I’m not a musician. My only musical talent is that I like to sing, but I was a DJ at my college radio station, I once went on tour with my former roommate’s band, and Tom, my boyfriend, is a fantastic multi-instrumentalist who fills our house with music. This was a tough question because my usual go-to fun fact is that I’m a doula!