In this series, Shanghai Mamas will feature amazing people within our community. You may have seen their names in WeChat, or have met them in person. Now you will learn what makes them thrive in Shanghai.
This week, we introduce you to long-time Shanghai Mama Louise Roy. Louise has been an integral part of the Shanghai Mamas community for over 10 years. And if you have had a baby in Shanghai, it is very likely you have come across her name.
By profession, Louise is a certified childbirth Doula, Lactation Specialist and Director of Operations at Ferguson Health. Louise is the go-to person for many of us during those magical, yet scary (and sometimes painful!) early days of motherhood. And countless women have sought her help with the rewarding, yet challenging task of breastfeeding.
I myself will never forget the time Louise patiently sat behind me in a dark delivery room bathroom applying warm water to my back for what felt like hours, as I gave birth to my second baby.
However, this is what you likely already know about Louise. What you probably don’t know is this very talented woman has many hobbies, one of them being furniture refurbishing and renewing.
It all started when she was a teenager in high school and was given a closet she absolutely disliked. Having grown up with a father that was a handyman around the house, she’d learned a few things so put her talents to good use and refurbished the whole closet herself. This piece, she says, still sits in her parent’s home to this day.
Nowadays, Louise has a small workshop of her own in her back lane where she takes the old pieces she finds on the streets of Shanghai and gives them new life and purpose. Using her tools and creativity she picks up a broken chest of drawers, or renovates a cabinet and repurposes it as a super funky bar. Her work is lively, creative and unique.
To Louise, refurbishing furniture is a multifaceted activity that ticks more than one box for her. For a start, it addresses the issue of living in a disposable society in which things are too quickly disposed of. So she finds these pieces, breathes new life into them and finds them a new home.
Additionally, her hobby has a therapeutic component. Being in maternal care, she is constantly communicating, exchanging and listening. Not only that, it is an area of work that is emotionally demanding. Withdrawing herself to the solitude of her workshop allows her to have that alone time in which she can decompress as well as reflect about her days.
Of course, I had to ask what were the intersecting points between her work in maternal care and her furniture venture. Apart from the more obvious aspect of giving life and someone or something a ‘new chapter’, Louise explains there is an additional aspect of individualization of care.
In furniture renewing it is necessary to look at a piece and design a plan that is specific to that piece. The same goes for maternity care: there is no one-fits-all approach as every woman is unique, any care provided must be tailor made.
Louise highlights there is an even greater lesson we can all learn from this story, and that is we need to stop looking at things, and people, as if they are broken.
“Old furniture is not broken, babies are not broken”, she says, “but our society is too quick to put that label on things as well as on people and we can do better.”
Once Louise explained this, her surprising hobby didn’t seem so surprising anymore. After all, she can look beyond what most of us would call problems and see potential, be that a new mom with difficulties breastfeeding, a piece of furniture or a challenging baking project. Did I mention she’s also an amazing baker and can create the most amazing dinosaur cakes? I guess that is a story for another time.