Sheila Kamara Hay is an Ecstatic Birth visionary, advocate, and trainer. She desires to share with women that childbirth is not something they must endure, but a journey they can thoroughly enjoy.
As a mother of three, Sheila has experienced firsthand a range of births — from the traumatic to the ecstatic — and has advised and inspired countless women in the creation or reclamation of their own births.
A featured guest teacher at Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts and Orgasmic Birth Pain to Power childbirth education program, Sheila loves sharing her worldview of what’s possible in life and birth and passing that knowledge onto other women. She has also taught at the Entheos Online Academy, the Birth Institute, Choices in Childbirth, and been a guest speaker at numerous virtual conferences. Sheila has a BA from Yale University and an MA from Columbia University in Cultural Sociology.
Sheila loves empowering women to access their fierce feminine power in birth and life. Her own childbirth journeys left her exclaiming, “Why didn’t I know it can be this good? Women need to know!”. She can be found screaming it from the rooftops at Ecstatic Birth
School For Mothers: Who are the members of your family?
I live with my husband and 3 kids, ages 10-14.
What is Ecstatic Birth and how did you arrive at this work?
Ecstatic Birth is a movement designed to empower women to ENJOY the journey of childbirth rather than enduring it.
The seeds of Ecstatic Birth were conceived years ago with my first pregnancy. I desired a birth that would leave me breathless and marveling at my body’s strength, wisdom, and capacity to bring forth life – but I had no idea how to get there.
My first birth was a lot more traumatic than ecstatic. It set into motion a string of heartbreaking events that shook my very foundation and forced me to re-evaluate how to operate in this world. Through that reconsideration, I learned to connect to the wisdom of my body and the importance of pleasure to my well-being. It was only after I had integrated these lessons that I was able to conceive again. That birth was my wake up call.
I decided that if I was ever going to give birth again, it had to be completely different. As I contemplated another pregnancy, I sought providers who shared my vision and I began to train with my mind, body, heart, and soul towards that vision. As a result, I experienced a beautiful, Zen birth. Postpartum, my body felt so good, so healthy. What took me months to recover from the first time took only hours, days the second time. I felt so strong, so beautiful, so alive, and thrilled with my femininity. There was more love and happiness flowing through me than I had ever experienced and I felt totally in tune with my sensual nature.
The third time I got pregnant, I knew my body was fully capable of giving birth without intervention, but I was curious if I could enjoy it. I spent the next nine months putting my attention there, researching and preparing in every way that I could imagine, to infuse pleasure into my birthing experience. I really enjoyed that birth. I was dancing with my contractions, dancing through them, really partying with the universe. When I was done, I kept saying to my husband, “Why don’t people know? Why didn’t I know that it could be this good?”
I felt called to tell everyone, to spread the word as best as I could. I loved watching women’s faces, their mouths agape as I shared my story, a mere sliver in the spectrum of what is possible. I discovered that I wasn’t a fluke, that this is all teachable and learnable.
I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops ever since, providing support and tools to expectant moms to help them enjoy their births and training for birth practitioners to do the same with their clients.
In what ways do you see birth as a transformative and powerful experience?
Childbirth is a huge rite of passage in a woman’s life. Like most rites of passages, it may not be easy, but it can take you higher than you’ve ever been your entire life. When you give birth to your child, you are also giving birth to yourself as a mother. Learn to birth with the full force of your feminine wisdom and you will emerge mothering with the full force of your feminine wisdom. What a gift that is to you and your baby!
Let’s talk about the pleasure available in birth, shall we? There are so many levels! At its best, the birth experience provides a powerful blend of emotional empowerment, spiritual connection, and physical ecstasy. This is not the typical birth you hear about or see depicted in the media. Those births don’t seem like much fun. Ecstatic Birth is everything our culture depicts birth to be turned inside out and upside down. This type of birth is available to the fully conscious, fierce and well prepared woman.
What are the gifts of birth that we can take into motherhood?
A conscious birth will up-level our entire relationship to our body, our power, our femininity, and our sexuality. Preparing for an Ecstatic Birth empowers a woman to deepen her connection to her body and the wisdom within, to learn to tap into the flow of ecstasy that is always available to her, to use pleasure to support flow even through the most challenging moments, to disarm her fears, and to dance with whatever comes her way in a way that takes her and everyone around her higher.
How do we sustain these gifts as enduring parts of motherhood especially as children reach their teen years?
There is a saying in the natural birth world that they way you live is the way you birth (and vice-versa). All the gifts a mama gets from her birth directly translate into every aspect of her life, including all stages of mothering. The biggest lesson that we learn from birth is that pleasure supports flow. When we hit challenging moments in life our instincts are to contract and resist. Instead, we can always choose to lean into pleasure to support our flow in those moments… even when dealing with teens!
What are the reasons behind increasing c-section rates in some countries?
There are so many reasons from the personal to the global, the medical to the cultural, but underlying almost all of that is FEAR. The over medicalization we see in birth is a result of fear and an attempt to control that which resists control the most- mother nature.
What kinds of resistance to your work do you encounter?
Oh there is so much resistance to my work!! We are talking about a huge cultural shift, a huge transformation in our understanding of one of the most fundamental primal experiences a woman can have in her life. For some, it feels sacrilegious– after all the Bible says that suffering is women’s punishment to EVE taking a bite of that apple way back in the Garden of Eden! For others the idea of pleasure in birth is just plain selfish. Why should we care about our experience? We must think of the good of the child only. Well, what if our experience and the good of the child are inextricably linked??
How do you respond to detractors who say that orgasm during birth is selfish?
I share that pleasure is the most holistic birthing tool there is by explaining that the hormones that they body releases when it is experiencing pleasure are one and the same as the hormones that govern the flow of labor. Oxytocin, which is what our body produces when we feel pleasure and orgasm is precisely what the medical industry attempts to mimic with pitocin which is used in hospitals to jump start labor or hurry a sluggish labor along.
There is nothing to be gained by a mother sacrificing herself for the good of her child. A mother that is depleted, depressed, traumatized won’t be able to care for her child as well as a mother who is vibrant and joyous. As it turns out nature has optimally designed us to be in an ecstatic state.
Birth is a remarkable chance to ‘dance with the unexpected’, how do you prepare women for this aspect of the experience?
First and foremost, I have women observe without judgment their default pattern. How do they “dance with the unexpected” in their day to day life? All their patterns will be brought into the birthing room, so the more they can get conscious about what those patterns are and re-pattern those that are not healthy or supportive to them, the better off they will be during birth. The first step is always consciousness.
How do you use the language of birthing as a metaphor in your work and in what ways does this help people?
As women we are birthing all the time- babies as well as metaphorical babies, creative projects, relationships, new versions of ourselves, etc.. Understanding the flow of birth enables us to use that in our process. For example, a perpetual expansion and contraction is the rhythm of labor whether you are birthing a baby or a book. Once you know that that is how it flows you can account for that in your process. Rather than resisting every contraction that comes up you can use pleasure to support you in flowing through it.
What are the steps women can take to understand how our bodies work?
The #1 thing I advise women to do is pause and feel into their bodies. So many of us live in a disassociated state, ignoring the sensation of our bodies. However, sensation is the gateway to our inner wisdom and to the ecstasy that is always flowing within. Learning to FEEL is the first step. Rather than treating our bodies as a vehicle to get our head from place to place, let’s begin to tap into the incredible wells of wisdom that lie within. The wisdom of the body includes the mental/rational of our minds and so much more- our experiential wisdom, ancestral, primal and more! But the first step is simply to pause and feel into our bodies. What does it feel like within? What sensations are buzzing through your body right now in this very moment?
How do you reset your body when under pressure?
I use the exercise above, feeling into my body and consciously opening my energetic channels to more flow and pleasure. If the pressure is too intense, I like to shake all over. Much like animals instinctively shake to release trauma, so can we.
What do you mean by being ‘In Flow’?
It is the opposite of constriction. In that perpetual rhythm of expansion and contraction, when you are in flow you are feeling expansive. Energy is flowing through your being in a way that is deeply nourishing and restorative. When you are in contraction energy has a harder time flowing through you, mostly because of our innate resistance to whatever is happening.
What are the reasons women, especially mothers, forget to focus on ourselves, and our needs?
We have such great big hearts that our tendency is to nurture and care for those around us. AND we have been trained our whole lives to service others. Both are simultaneously true.
How do you become aware that you are unconsciously focused on and catering to other’s needs, and how does this affect your close relationships?
When you feel tired, cranky, rundown.. these are all indications that you need to up-level your self-care. These states make it very difficult to relate to those around us from a place of love.
Mothers are often told we are being selfish if we don’t look after ourselves since that’s what is needed to raise children well, what do you make of this line of argument?
If that is what it takes to get a mom who doesn’t take care of herself to do so, so be it. The next level is valuing yourself so much that you do it for yourself rather than for the people that depend on you, but unfortunately, that can be too big of a leap for a lot of women.
What are the three most interesting things you’ve encountered in the past year?
- So many of the things we reject about ourselves, the instances that we struggle with the most, that we may perceive as our shortcomings or failures are direct results of dishonoring our feminine essence, of trying to be something that we are not.
- The idea of doing business in the feminine paradigm and the implications that can have on “making money.” Perhaps the feminine can receive money (and/or value) in unexpected ways?
- The earth can heal itself within our lifetime. At a visit to a restored rainforest in Costa Rica we learned only 60 years earlier it had been farmland.
And finally, what is the one common denominator between mothers? (beyond children)
Connect with Sheila and Ecstatic Birth’s work on social media