Smile Politely

Celebrating C-U Life: Sarah Summers

Where were you born?

Right here in Champaign-Urbana.

Tell me about your childhood.

I was born and raised in Champaign. I have one brother, Ryan, and one half-sister, Julie. My parents were divorced when I was in grade school, but we have all remained  a pretty tight-knit family. I attended Garden Hills Elementary school, which is now where my children attend. I also attended Franklin Middle School and graduated from Central High School in 1997. I cherish the memories of our family vacations to Daytona Beach and also our many trips to Kings Island amusement park. I think my favorite memories as a child were of camping and boating with my mom, stepdad, and brother every summer.

Did you have any nicknames growing up?

I will always and forever be “Sari” or “Sar Bear”  to my family. My grandmother called me “Sari Michael,”  which was a combination of my first name and my brother’s middle name. I don’t know why she came up with that, but it stuck.

Do you have any nicknames now?

I’m still the same ol’ “Sari” and “Sar Bear”… along with “Mommy” now.

When you were younger, what was your dream career?

When I was growing up, my mother was the lead singer in a few local bands. I remember her dressing me up in her stage clothes, putting makeup on me, and I’d sing into my hairbrush (as a microphone) to my favorite Madonna or Debbie Gibson songs. I guess I always wanted to be a big celebrity singer. 

What work do you currently do?

For the past fourteen years I’ve worked in different departments at the University of Illinois. I am currently an Office Support Specialist at McKinley Health Center’s Mental Health Unit. In my spare time I also paint murals and wall art. Four years ago I became a Certified Childbirth Doula through the Doulas of North America organization. I have assisted many families through their birthing experiences.

Tell me what a doula can do for a new mother?

SO many amazing things! I think first and foremost it brings a sense of comfort knowing that someone skilled and trained will be by your side every minute throughout the entire labor and delivery! Relaxation is key. There are so many ways a body is capable of relaxing and focusing through a tough obstacle. A doula can help achieve and maintain that capability to allow for the smoothest birthing experience possible, with the use of breathing techniques, guided imagery, focal points, massage, positioning, etc.  

How did you come to the decision to be a doula?

I had been weighing the options of going back to college for a while, but unsure of what I really had a passion for. After some soul searching, I realized that the field of reproduction was very amazing to me. So I started looking into midwifery college options, but soon realized that it would be extremely difficult to maintain school, full-time employment, and two small children. However, as I was looking at a particular midwifery website, I noticed an ad on the side of the page about becoming a doula. I had heard the word ‘doula’ before, but didn’t know much about them. I clicked on the website and read all about it. I was hooked! I wanted to be involved in the reproductive field without the medical aspect of it. I wanted to assist in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, but had very little interest in the medical field. Becoming a doula was exactly what I wanted. Plus, it would be manageable to achieve my certification along with all of my other responsibilities. After receiving my certification, I would be able to keep my full-time job and pursue this avenue part time. I have been lucky to work with a very understanding staff at the University that allowed me to take the time I needed to pursue this goal. So I enrolled in the two-year, self-paced doula training program and completed it in seven months! I was really motivated to get started.

What are the benefits to having a doula?

Statistically, there is clinical evidence that having a doula can shorten the length of labor with fewer complications, and it can reduce the need for interventions such as Pitocin, epidurals, episiotomies, etc. Emotionally, having a doula can help the parents feel more secure and confident throughout delivery, and lessens the anxiety about the birthing experience. 

What has been one of your favorite experiences as a doula?

I am honored to be a part of such an amazing and intimate experience. I include the husbands as much as they’d like to be included. I offer tips on how they can assist their loved one, drawing on things they would usually do at home to calm their wife after, for example, a stressful day, a sickness, or an injury. What makes her feel better, more comfortable, at ease? It could be as simple as a foot rub or drawing a warm bath for her. It’s interesting to see what they come up with. Seeing a husband so affectionate toward his wife during hard labor is a truly touching thing to witness. I’ll never forget a husband who whispered childlike, fictional stories into his wife’s ear as a means to help her relax. It worked like a charm. It was very sweet. 

What tips do you have for new mothers?

Rely on others for help. Don’t try to be Supermom. It’s okay to nap; it’s okay if the dishes don’t get done right now; and it’s okay if your partner, mom, sister, or grandma doesn’t fold clothes the way you normally would. Let all of that go. This is the time to focus on what is truly important. I have a post-natal appointment with all of my ‘moms’ that I assist with. I make sure that the important things are being tended to, and that the family has sufficient support and help if needed. 

Are there individuals that have inspire(d) you?

The list is long, my friend! I think different people have inspired different areas of my life. My grandmother definitely was an inspiration for me artistically. She taught me how to oil paint when I was fifteen. My father has been a huge inspiration for my character. He’s my hero and has always been a wise, practical source with impeccable emotional strength. And, of course, my children inspire me to do my best every day. I hope to inspire them to branch out and try several different interests if that’s what will make them happy.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Look at situations through different perspectives. There is always more than one way to view something … and you don’t even need an artist’s eye! 

What are your long-term personal goals?

I want to be a good role model so my kids grow up healthy and happy. In doing that, my personal goals are to maintain my own health and happiness along the way. My significant other and I make fitness and nutrition important staples in our lives, and I want to improve on that. It is my personal goal in life to do as many pull-ups as he can! 

I’d also like to eventually dig deeper into my hobbies as an artist. I wish I could find the time to create a large supply of different items and be able to have a booth at the Taste of C-U or Farmer’s Market selling my own creations. 

What do you think you’ll be doing when you’re 65 years old?

Maybe then I’ll have time to have an artists’ booth! I am hoping my significant other and I will be able to retire at the same time from the University and be able to travel to all of the destinations on our Bucket List. First stop — Italy!!

What can we find you doing on a Saturday morning?

Lounging in my pajamas for as long as possible with a cup of coffee in my hand! I don’t do much before that first cup of joe! 

Now that Fall weather seems to be here, what is one of your favorite things to do during this season?

This is my favorite time of year because the air is crisp and the leaves are so gorgeous! My significant other and I enjoy long bike rides and hiking. Allerton Park and Curtis Orchard are two of my favorite places. My kids really look forward to Halloween, too, so I make their costumes every year. This year, my son will be an Enderman from the game Mindcraft, and my daughter will be Gene Simmons from KISS. 

Have you started Christmas shopping yet?

Yes, actually. I’m about 90% done with all of my shopping. I get terribly stressed out around Christmastime with so much to do and so many places to be. It is in my best interest (and those around me) if I de-stress as much as possible before the holiday season arrives. Haha. 

What is a hobby you’ve been dying to try?

Whittling! My grandmother was a whittler and I remember watching her for hours and being so captivated. I would love to be able to sit outside on a beautiful day and create something out of nothing, which is what both my grandparents did all the time! Amazing talents. 

Christmas music or Patriotic music?

I love Christmas music. My kids and I always listen to The Chipmunks Christmas album while decorating the tree, just like my brother and I did when we were growing up. There is just a sense of humbleness when I hear Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. 

Halloween candy or Valentine’s day candy?

Oh boy … I’m a sucker for those Brach’s candy hearts on Valentine’s Day.

Are you going to dress up for Halloween this year?

Usually I do, but this year I have spent so much time working on my kids’ costumes, that I don’t have anything in mind for myself. There are always costumes in my closet to fall back on, though … Sookie from True Blood, a Star Wars Imperial Officer, I Dream of Jeanie…

If someone composed a lullaby for you, what would it be called?

My mother actually did write songs for me when I was a baby, and she was a singer/songwriter. I’ll stick with her original song called “Sari Girl.”

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