Motherhood Insight with Sheryl Cooksley

By Angela Potter


Where do you call home?


I live in Estacada, Oregon with my husband and our pets. We planned on downsizing our home now that all of our children are adults, but upon moving from Tualatin, Oregon, we moved to a house that is essentially the same size. The good part is we have a designated room for our adult guests, one called the “Kiddles” room for the grandchildren and my new home office for my doula business.


I have lived many places from country to urban to suburban… back to country. I’m a rural girl at heart, but love the city too.


How many kids do you have?


I have 4 adult children, including a son who experiences disability and mental illness and a son who passed away almost 2 years ago. I was graced with being the biological mother of one and adoptive mother to 3. I fostered over 25 children and, if you ask my children’s friends, I’m their “OM”- Other Mother.


My husband has 3 adult children as well. Between us it’s a lot of adult children! I am Nana to 4 grandchildren and selfishly can’t wait to have more.



What was one of the hardest changes for you physically during your postpartum journey?


I am an energetic person and had been very active during my pregnancy. I was not ready to be so very tired and sore. It was Christmastime and the expectation was for me to participate at family events even though I had just gotten home from the hospital, I was a single mother and had 20 stitches “down there”.


I recall not feeling well….like having a low-grade flu bug. In hindsight, I suspect it was my hormones coupled with my body purging all of the medications I had received from the abundance of interventions during labor and birth.


What was one of the hardest changes for you mentally/emotionally during your postpartum journey?


Although I was surrounded by lovely women, I felt very alone. I was afraid and really did not have a ton of guidance. My roommate was wonderful in providing respite and my dear friend offered motherly support.


On a day to day basis, I was alone and not as educated as I thought I was about baby care. I was anxious, scared and unsure. I often felt numb as I cared for my baby, not because I didn’t love him, but because I was SO TIRED!


I had so much self-doubt, and at times that doubt was put upon me by people making statements about my inability to raise my baby (at 25 years old) and mentioning that he might be better off being cared for by two parents. I had to learn to be strong and protect my baby from harsh words by protecting myself from them. I needed support and encouragement. Fortunately, I had enough of that to help me get past this difficult period.


What surprised you most about the postpartum time? 


Postpartum was HARD! I surprised myself by being so resilient and coming through a less than stellar postpartum period to becoming a solid mother and provider for my baby. I learned that I had way more in me than I ever imagined. That I could do very hard things that were selfless and tireless.


Mostly, I was surprised at how I could feel such a deep love for such a little human. As an adoptee I was so excited to have my first biological “relative” in my life… baby. Until this moment, I had no idea that this even mattered.


What has been your greatest joy in motherhood?


Being the mother of adult children with children of their own brings a different joy than a mother of younger children. To watch my children birth and begin raising their young families and carry on some of our family traditions and philosophies has to be one of my greatest joys. 


Oddly, one of my proudest moments of motherhood happened at the time of my first husband’s death from kidney cancer. I watched my children gather around their father, love him and care for him in our home during the last two months of his life. At the moment of his death, I stood at the foot of the bed and they flanked the head of his bed, 2 on each side. They ushered their father out of their lives and his in such a loving way that it still touches my heart today.


In that moment, and many tragic moments to come, I knew that I had done something terribly right as their mother. That I had taught them well and they understood.


How was your postpartum experience different with each baby?

I only experienced postpartum with one of my four children. 29 years later, I wish I would have known then what I know now and been wise enough to implement it.


What is one resource that felt invaluable to you during the postpartum time? 


The support of other women was by far the most valuable resource I had. There was no such thing as You Tube, internet or Facebook Groups in 1988. I met another mother in a Single Mom Birth Class. Our babies were born 12 days apart. We were of huge support to each other then, as friends, roommates and each other’s babysitter. We were bound by these two boys before they were born and are still friends (more than friends…..sisters) to this day.


What is one piece of advice you would like give to pregnant moms in preparation for their postpartum journey?


Prepare! Gather your resources. Know who you can call/text/private message if you are having “one of those days”. Enjoy your time with your partner before baby arrives and be prepared to enjoy the time with your baby once they are here. Don’t be in a hurry. Ok…that’s more than one piece of advice, but I am a seasoned mother and have a lifetime of advice to share.


About Sheryl


My husband (my first love from 35 years ago) and I enjoy living rurally and spending time with our grandchildren, pets and children. I am a true Pacific NW girl who loves all Oregon has to offer. When I am not providing birth and postpartum doula support through my “baby”, Family Tree Doula Services, you can find me snowshoeing, hiking, or kayaking near my home.