Rachel D’Souza-Siebert lives in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis with her husband Brian and their two young children, Cameron and Emelia. A natural leader who currently works with non-profits as the founder of Gladiator Consulting, Rachel is one of the most effortlessly beautiful people I’ve met, with a warm, confident and vibrant personality to match. Here, as part of a new series on inspiring women and the lives they lead, Rachel shares her compelling personal story of suffering, and surviving, a heart attack at the age of 28, just a week after her first child was born, her perfect Sunday, and what she cannot live without…
You’re an advocate for women’s heart health. Tell me about your involvement with the American Heart Association.
Eight days after the birth of my son, I suffered and survived a massive and rare heart attack. Known as Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), it typically affects younger women of childbearing age with no family history of heart disease. Upon learning of the grim survival statistics of this type of heart disease, I realized how lucky I was and felt compelled to share my story in hopes of finding answers and breaking down the stigma of heart disease. In 2012-13, I served as a National Spokesperson for the America Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign and have continued to volunteer with our local America Heart Association office.
When you don’t die when you’re 28, the list of things that life is too short for gets longer and longer. I don’t have time to waste. We can do our best or we can’t, but I’m not going to waste whatever minutes I have being a mess. So, you go figure it out, and do it. I’m not scared to ask for help either and this became more of my personal philosophy after my heart attack.
Brian and I met at the Dubliner. He was watching the Cardinals game with a buddy and I was there with a gal pal. I had no interest in going out that night and she lured me out of my apartment with promises of grilled cheese sandwiches. Brian and I were sitting next to each other at the bar. While a random guy kept trying to buy me drinks, a random woman kept trying to make conversation with Brian. At one point, when these two people finally gave up, Brian and I looked at each other and laughed at how ridiculous the situation was. We started talking and wound up sitting on the sidewalk talking until the sun came up:) We went on our first date to Boogaloo a few days later.
What a sweet story! So, what does a typical weekday look like for you?
My daughter most often beats my alarm clock – I get up whenever she’s up (unless my husband isn’t traveling. Then I get up at 7:00am!!). Both my kids like to have one ‘snooze’ cycle in bed before we get going. Morning meetings are at Rise Coffee or Blondies. Working lunch at my desk in the Nebula co-working space. Afternoons there or meeting with clients at CET@CIC. School/day-care pick-up by 4pm. Play outside with the ‘village’ – the 6-8 families on our block with children of the same age. Dinner and bedtime routine goes from 5:30-8pm. Mental housekeeping (and sometimes actual housekeeping) until bedtime.
After Emelia was born, I decided to stay home for six months. That lasted seven weeks. Part of that was because Cameron had his last day of school and Emelia was born the very next day – he went from having a strict routine to summer break and a baby sister. I love my children but it solidified in me that I was not a stay-at-home mom. I want to keep learning and maintain adult relationships and to feel my work is relevant outside my home. I started working with smaller fundraising projects and then (through word of mouth and referrals) I started getting calls from bigger organizations and it just started snowballing. I would have my infant with me and nobody had a problem with that. There’s this expectation that people think you can’t be both. You can’t be a mother or a parent in the workplace. Gladiator proved the exact opposite of that for me and my clients.
Sleep in (because kids spent the night at grandparents’), brunch with my husband. Pick up kids and spend the day outside – at the park, pool, hiking, etc. Cook or BBQ a huge feast and invite neighbors and friends for a block party/potluck.
What or who inspires you?
That shifts all the time! I had many great teachers, from high school to grad school, very normal, very average people who have done things that have inspired me. Elizabeth Warren is my hero right now, and I met Lindsay Pattan over the summer who decided to run for Alderwoman. Also, when my kids persevere through their little struggles, I find tiny bits of inspiration in them. This is what it’s about.
Describe Yourself in 5 words.
What are two things you consider yourself to be very good at?
Taking risks and trying something new.
Understanding where a person is coming from.
What can you not live without?
One really amazing nap a week – preferably snuggling with someone.
What do you do for self-care?
Wine & laughing with friends
Best advice you’ve received.
Let yourself fail hard and often. You learn more when you’re uncomfortable.
What’s in your handbag?
For the holidays, I gifted myself a new Kate Spade tote. Typically, you’ll find my laptop, some sharpie ink pens, lavender hand cream, some business cards and 3-5 tubes of lip gloss. The ‘kids’ pockets has snacks, a few Pokemon cards, a diaper and some wipes.
I have two, Cooked by Michael Pollan & Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Newsies (baby Christian Bale!) and in my adult life, I’m addicted to Star Trek.
Favorite Local Restaurant:
This changes often but currently La Vallesana off Cherokee by my office.
Favorite Kid-friendly Activity:
Whitaker Music Festival/Jazz in the Garden at Missouri Botanical Gardens.
Best Date Day or Night:
One of our favorite things is driving out to one of the winery trails and biking, stopping off for a few drinks and picnicking and then staying at a B & B overnight. It’s an equal mix of doing something active and fun, lazing around in the sun over a glass of wine and a picnic and catching up on everything without a little one interrupting.:)
Best Beauty Tip:
I have this NARS cream eye pencil in a shimmery champagne color I use to line the inner corners of my eyes – instantly makes your eyes pop and you ALWAYS take great pictures!
Favorite Local Gift/Clothing Boutique:
I’m boring here but my go-to are Nordstrom Rack and Anthropologie, with a little J.Crew peppered in.
Favorite Local Park:
“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour
Gladiator Consulting focuses on three main areas: fundraising, executive and staff coaching, and strategic planning. For more information, visit ww.gladiatorRDS.com.
For more information on how to be heart healthy, visit the American Heart Association.