Be Kind to Yourself and Other Perspectives on Motherhood from Tiffany Townsend, CLC

This week, we talk with Tiffany Townsend, CLC, a doula who provides lactation support and birth education. With 5 kids of her own, ages 2- 12, she understands the practical realities of motherhood and the power of mom intuition. She encourages moms to be themselves and be kind to themselves.

What are you most proud of in your life?

Pursuing my goals.

If you could compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?

I would be a cheetah... I can relate to the why they get things done.

What is your passion in life?

To help reduce infant mortality in the ethnic community. 

What motivates you? And, why?

My kids because they are watching me pursue my dreams.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

There is no other person in the world like you. You do a grand disservice to the world by assimilating to norms.

If you could compare your mom journey to another experience, what would it be, and why?

Being a mother is like being a life coach. You get to help your little people become (hopefully) amazing contributors of society.

What’s the best thing about being a mom?

It gives you an opportunity to see the ways that you need to grow. When you see your kids doing things, it shows you exactly where to start.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?

Finding time to NOT be a mom.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your mom journey?

Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to learn and have a circle of people who support you.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

I feel my power when I see my kids take a stand on things like bullying or racism. It shows me that I am doing a great job.

What have been the keys to unlocking your mom power?

Trusting my intuition.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power?

Listen to your kids and your gut.

How have your own experiences as a mom impacted your work supporting moms with birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding?

I understand how difficult it can be to breastfeed. I know the disappointment of things not going exactly how I planned. I can give empathy and support so that these events aren't a cause for trauma.

What do you love about your work?

Being a part of such a personal moment! Seeing the strength we have as women.

How have you grown in your work over time?

I have learned so much! That’s what I am most grateful for, knowledge. 

Can you describe an experience with a patient/client who you felt like you really made a difference in their life?

I had a client struggling with postpartum depression. She was hellbent on pretending she was okay. I sat her down and gave her space to be honest, and she broke down. She felt like someone would call Child Protective Services and take her baby. Instead, I connected her to community organizations that could help her cope. And, she is fine now. 

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Purpose Over Perfection: An Interview With Maya Lee

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Maya Lee, mom of one daughter and with a second on the way. She talks with us about purpose over perfection in Motherhood and life, releasing control, valuing the process, and the preciousness of time.

What are you most proud of in your life? Giving birth to my daughter and doing it naturally. For me, I’ve always been so fearful of pain and early on  convinced myself that if I ever gave birth, I could never do it without any sort of pain intervention. But, when I became pregnant, my mindset shifted, and I was suddenly more open to the idea that maybe I could do it. And, if not, that was okay to. I prepared myself as best as I could. In the end, it all worked out… even after 32 hours of labor! I still can’t believe I did it and hope I can do it again.

What motivates you? And, why? Throughout my design career, I've been fortunate to have great mentors guide and influence me. I hope to be a strong example to my daughters as well. Professionally, it’s been ingrained in me that I need to enjoy the process and embrace the cyclical nature of trying, failing, learning/understanding, and getting better. I try to apply those learnings to motherhood as well. Everything in me wants to do things perfectly, but being purposeful is much more valuable in this journey. We're both just trying to figure things out, learning from each other, and in the process, hopefully having fun, growing, and getting to know ourselves better.

What does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like? It felt instantaneous and revolutionary. Specifically, the sense of responsibility and commitment is so immediate and powerful. It just took me by surprise. While I was pregnant, I already felt like a mom, but when i first saw her, it was an indescribable moment full of an overwhelming mix of emotions. I was scared but mostly so relieved, full of love, and excited for our future together.

What has been most surprising to you about your role as a mom? My concept of time is urgently more precious. I think the urgency comes from experiences going by so fast. I want to spend as much quality time as I can with my family and build meaningful experiences and memories, so my threshold for BS is really low. I've become really good at filtering out nonsense–whether in the form of people or things—because I just don’t have time for it.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom? You have to be okay with giving up control. That's very difficult for someone who loves to be in control. Also, there's the constant worrying that comes with the territory. You want to raise a compassionate child, and you worry about everything that might get in the way. Motherhood, with all its ups and downs, is the ultimate teaching moment for sure.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power? I go into this intense mode of focus whenever my daughter gets sick. I really just hate seeing her miserable, so I've found that I get this surge of energy to do everything possible to make her well again. Honestly, it's probably driven by fear, but so be it. I go into full protective momma mode any time I feel like I need to advocate for my child.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power? I am by no means an expert and still learning to navigate through this journey myself. But, what many mothers have passed on to me is to not be hard on myself. Be patient knowing parenting is not perfection but rather practice. Love on your child, and do what you think is best. Don't be afraid to ask for help and support. And, try to help other parents as well. The rest will unfold.

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Sister Support: An Interview with Lesley Harris and Alina Mauritz

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Lesley Harris, mom to Joey (5 years old) and Alex (11 months old), and Alina Mauritz, mom to Nicholas (15 months old). These two sisters tell us about what inspires them about being mothers, what it’s like to have a sister to share the motherhood journey with, and how they unlock their mom power.

What are you most proud of in your life?

Lesley: By far, being a mother to my two boys, Joey and Alex, is my proudest accomplishment. Nothing fills my heart with more joy or pride than seeing them smile, laugh, or reach a new milestone.  Although parenting has its challenges and difficult moments, it’s also incredibly rewarding and fulling to be their mom.

Alina: I’m most proud of my family, my husband and son, and the home we’re building together. Success looks very different to me than it did a year ago. Motherhood has significantly changed my priorities. Now, seeing my son achieve milestones and watching my husband thrive in his new role as a dad makes me feel proud and like I’m doing something right.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

Lesley: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Being a full-time working mom, I often remind myself of this phrase when the daily schedule of working and parenting become overwhelming and challenging. It’s easy to get lost in the stress and chaos. Every day, I strive to cherish the joyful moments of our day — an extra tight hug, an impromptu ice cream date, or a funny conversation before bed — and continuously remind myself of how fleeting this precious time truly is — even on the hardest of days.

Alina: “You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” After giving birth, I never left my son’s side. I pushed off appointments, blew off my girlfriends, and didn’t even have a date night with my husband until the baby was 6 months old. I realized I was isolating people and ignoring the part of me that was more than just a mom. I felt I was burning out and knew I needed to make a change. It’s important for moms to take a step back and have that “me” time. To give my son the best, I have to be at my best.

What’s the easiest thing about being a mom?

Lesley: The first thing that comes to mind is just the pure, indescribable, depth of love I feel for my boys. That’s the easy part of being their mom.

Alina: The love I have for my son. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s like breathing - it’s truly natural.

What’s the hardest or worst thing about being a mom?

Lesley: For me, parenting children who are in different stages of life and have uniquely different needs, is one of the hardest aspects of motherhood.  For example, as an infant, some of the hardest times in my opinion is seeing your baby sick and crying when they can’t tell you what’s wrong, running on very little sleep and then having to go to work the next day, just to name a few. I would often ask other parents, “does this get any easier?” And the consistent answer would be, “it doesn’t get easier, just harder in different ways.” I now have a better understanding of this with my five-year-old. The different challenges now become protecting his heart from bullies, making sure he has all the resources he needs to succeed in his school environment, enriching his life with valuable experiences, and guiding him to be kind and responsible.

Alina: The constant worry has been the worst part because I know it will never stop. It started for me as soon as my son entered this world, and almost any parent will tell you that feeling will never go away. Whether it’s worrying if your infant is breathing in their crib, if your 10-year-old is being bullied at school, who your teenager is getting in a car with, or the life decisions your adult children make, the worry will always consume you. It’s part of the journey.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power?

Lesley: Along with some physical strength—it’s not easy carrying around a 24+ pound clingy baby—I think “mom power” is all about mental and emotional strength. Take one day at a time and give yourself grace. As moms, we tend to give other people grace, but we are our own worst critics. Be kind to yourself, stop striving for unachievable perfection, and avoid comparing your life with others. Embracing this perspective is where the true power can come from.

Alina: They keys for me have been doing what’s best for my family. When I got pregnant I always planned on taking maternity leave and going back to work, but after having my son, something in me changed. I wasn’t ready to go back to my job, and it made me feel conflicted. I didn’t know any other women who were stay-at-home moms, and it’s not a role I ever expected for myself. But, my husband and I came to the realization that this was best for our family and we were lucky that we could make it work, financially. I never felt more in control of my life than making the choice to leave the workforce and focus on my son. I’ve stopped comparing myself to women who are both successful career women and wonderful mothers, although I remain in awe of them. I feel empowered knowing I did what was right for my family. Don’t compare yourself to other families and mothers. Every family dynamic is different, and all you can do is the best for your own.

What do you love most about your sister?

Lesley: My younger sister, Alina, can always make me smile and laugh. She’s a trusted confidante who is always willing to listen and be there when you need her. She’s a true reflection of “mom power” and mental and emotional strength. I’ve loved watching her naturally grow into her role as a new mother. She’s doing a phenomenal job. I truly admire how deeply she loves and nurtures her son Nicholas.

Alina: My older sister, Lesley, is my best friend. She makes me laugh, she’s always willing to listen, and gives me sound advice. She’s a great sister, daughter, wife, but she’s truly the best mom. Seeing everything she does for her sons inspires me to be a better mom, every day.

What is the best thing about having a sister who is also on her own motherhood journey?

Lesley: Since my sister became a mother to Nicholas, I love being able to share our motherhood experiences, the good and the bad, together. We’ve always had a close relationship, but now I feel that our friendship is amplified because we have a better understanding and appreciation for each other as mothers. For years, we were on different paths in life, and I feel so thankful that we are now raising our children close in age together. It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone and talk to her about our kids’ milestones, foods they are eating, activities they are in, and funny stories about our days, while reminiscing about our own childhood together.

Alina: Lesley is my go-to guru on all things babies and toddlers. I usually call her before my pediatrician with questions, and she has an experience she can share that calms my fears after I read something horrifying on the internet. What I love most is that because she’s my sister and my best friend, anything we talk about is judgement-free. That’s critical when you’re a new mom trying to figure it out. I wish more women had a support system like we do by having each other. It makes this journey all the more wonderful.


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Introducing Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, IBCLC: A Mothership Certified Nurse and Lactation Consultant

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we talk with Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, IBCLC who works with moms and dads just after birth in the hospital and at several pediatrics offices as a lactation consultant. She provides breastfeeding and pumping support and information, answering questions and helping families troubleshoot to find solutions that work best for them in that moment and beyond.

What is your passion in life?

If I had to choose a passion, I would say it is experiencing new cultures, and interacting with people who are different than me. My first loves were psychology and sociology, and I still feel a pull for those disciplines. And, I have loved my times working with refugees both here and abroad; they have a lot to teach us about the human spirit.

What is most challenging about the work that you do?

The most challenging role I play is as a lactation consultant in the hospital, working with the mothers and babies in the first 1-2 days. Babies are so sleepy, as are mothers, and very often unable to “kick in” and start nursing. Birth can be hard on an infant as well as his/her mother, and those first few days can be quite challenging. 

Can you describe an experience in your work where you felt like you were on top of the world?

A good day for me is when I can help get all the babies latched on, nursing well, without hurting mother’s nipples. A “cherry on top” is when I get an email from someone who tells me how much I helped them get through the difficult times, and how they are still nursing months or years later. It’s hard to beat that!

How has your work with families evolved over time? How have you grown in your work over time?

When I first started working with breastfeeding families back in 1994, I was very much “by the book” and did not see much flexibility. Nowadays, I can see how complicated people are and how little control we have sometimes.  Preserving the relationship between mother and baby, as well as the mother’s mental well-being, is more of the focus for me. Of course, I still work very hard to help mother reach her goal of latching and/or pumping, but those tasks are not the only things on my mind as I work with a family. 

Can you describe an experience with a patient who you felt like you really made a difference in their life?

One mother in particular stands out to me. She was meeting me for a third time to work out some oversupply issues and nipple and breast pain. I could tell something more was going on. As we had built rapport, I felt comfortable asking her about her birth and her postpartum experience. No one had really asked her about how traumatizing and scary her birth had been, and people had been dismissing her feelings of anxiety now that she was home with baby.  Having someone to open up to without shame and judgment was very comforting to her. We got her hooked up with a therapist right away, and she was able to work through her experience. We are still in contact, and that is super rewarding.

Can you describe a time when you were impressed by the strength of one of your patients?

I am always impressed with the mother who perseveres, no matter what people say, and just keeps on trying to latch baby to the breast and/or keeps pumping to protect her supply until baby can actually latch. I have gotten emails randomly about women I worked with who tell me how their baby finally latched after months and months of trying and pumping. Pumping full-time is incredibly difficult and time-consuming, and I am awestruck by those moms who do it. 

Can you describe an experience with a patient where you felt inspired by them and their parent journey?

I am always impressed with the mother who knows exactly what is right for themselves and their babies and does not give a s*#t what people say. That goes for women who choose to pump and bottle feed, to formula feed, to work outside the home, to stay home with their babies, and all the choices in between. To have the confidence to say, “this is what I’m doing, and I don’t really care what you think,” is admirable. I am inspired by that strength. 

In your opinion, what is the value of taking time to connect with your patients and build trust?

Taking the time to really get to know the patient and their “story” is huge. I always like to ask the new mother about her birth and what her hopes were for breastfeeding when she was pregnant. This gives me an idea about where she’s at, what she’s thinking about, and what she’s hoping for, which will help me direct my care.

Can you describe an experience where you witnessed a colleague do something that made you think, “I don’t want to be like them”? What was it about the experience that made you feel this way?

Unfortunately, I experienced this on a recent trip to Greece working with Syrian refugees. I witnessed a lactation consultant shame a mother for using formula and essentially blame her for her own mastitis (breast infection) symptoms. I was flabbergasted, and I would never want to be that way. The mother was doing the best she could under the circumstances. It made me ill. 

What advice do you have for new parents?

My advice to new parents would be to set up a support system ahead of time.  Tell people how they can help, and then let them help. Parenting a new baby is hard, and you are not meant to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and your community and stay in touch.

When it comes to breastfeeding, my advice is to take a long-term approach, and don’t get too discouraged if breastfeeding doesn’t go well in the first few days—it rarely does, actually. If baby cannot latch, or if it’s too painful to latch, keep baby fed and happy, protect your supply with pumping and/or hand expressing, and reach out for help ASAP. While you’re pregnant is a good time to search out the names and phone numbers of lactation consultants—ask your doctor and your friends for recommendations for trusted help.  Once baby comes, it’s more difficult than you think to hunt down a phone number and pick up the phone to make an appointment. 

And finally, I want you to know that even if breastfeeding does not work out in the first week or two, it does not mean it will never work out. With time, support, and practice, babies usually do figure it out and go on to be great breastfeeders! You don’t have to master things right out of the gate.

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Introducing Cristina Stauffer, LMSW: A Mothership Certified Therapist

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, a member of the inaugural class of Mothership Certified health service providers. She is a private practice therapist who specializes in supporting women and families through the childbearing years. Her areas of specialty include adjustment to pregnancy and parenthood, attachment and bonding, infertility, miscarriage and infant loss, medically fragile infants and NICU experiences, grief and trauma work, and perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression. She also teaches infant massage classes in the community and writes a creative blog called Ava’s Alphabet.

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am proud of myself for learning to take chances even when they scare me. I have been blessed with some amazing opportunities along the way, and if I hadn’t found the courage to take them, I would not be where I am today in my life, both personally and professionally.

What do you love about your work?

I love the hopefulness in my work. I have always been drawn to working with women, families, and babies. I think this is because it is a time in life that offers up so much hope for the future. I know women and families will get through the challenges of early parenthood, and it is amazing to watch them grow, blossom, and find their way.

Can you describe an experience with a client where you felt inspired by them and their parent journey?

I am inspired by all of my clients. There is such a raw vulnerability that women experience during pregnancy and early motherhood. It can be scary and unsettling, especially to women who are used to feeling independent and in control. I am always so impressed by the courage of the women that I treat. To be able to reach out and ask for help or to admit that one is struggling during such a vulnerable, delicate time is an amazing act of strength.

How important is empathy in the work that you do?

Empathy is critical in the work I do. I want my clients to feel safe, valued, respected and heard in their work with me. To sit with a woman who is struggling with her parenting journey and help her feel validated and less alone is a powerful tool. Once that connection is made, the true healing can begin.

When a parent is having a hard time with some part of their parenting journey, what do you tell them to empower them?

I often remind the parents that I work with that it is okay to not love every minute of the parenting journey. It is okay to not love pregnancy or the tiny newborn stage or the art of breastfeeding. We will all find the aspect of parenting that we shine in, and it is okay to admit that there are things we do not love about being a parent.

One of my favorite quotes about motherhood is from author Jill Churchill. It reads “There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” I often see new parents struggle with trusting their instincts because they are so inundated with advice and information about “best practices.” It is impossible to follow all the advice. I want to help parents own the choices they make because they are what are best for their baby and their family.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

My current personal mantra is “progress, not perfection.” I know that my own perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. This statement is a reminder to myself that I cannot do it all and that sometimes it is okay to lower my expectations.

What advice do you have for new parents?

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to your gut. There is no one right way to do this. Choose what is best for you and your family, even if it may not be what others want you to do.


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Introducing Kristin Revere: A Mothership Certified Doula

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Kristin Revere, a member of the inaugural class of Mothership Certified health service providers. She is a doula in Grand Rapids, MI who provides bed rest support, birth and postpartum doula support and infant care support through Gold Coast Doulas

What is your passion?

My passion is supporting women primarily and families as a whole. I believe judgment-free support during the childbearing years is critical. I want women to feel they have a place to turn. I don't empower women. They empower themselves.

What do you love about your work?

Everything. I get to support families during a major rite of passage. It is an honor to witness a baby come into the world and families form and grow.

What is most challenging about the work that you do?

The most challenging thing about my work is being on call all of the time. It is hard on my family even with a shared call schedule. My phone is always on. I am used to waking in the middle of the night, and I always have a bag packed ready to go. It is all worth it though. I wouldn't change a thing.

Can you describe a time when you were impressed by the strength of one of your clients?

I am impressed by the strength of each and every one of my clients. There is one client who slow danced with her husband through most of her induction. It was the sweetest thing to witness, and she demonstrated such strength through her long labor.       

In your opinion, what is the value of taking time to connect with your clients and build trust?

Building trust and developing a relationship with my clients is so important. Birth and the postpartum time are so vulnerable. It is important for me to build a strong connection with both the mother and her partner.

When a parent is having a hard time with some part of their parenting journey, what do you tell them to empower them?

I tell my clients to trust their instincts. Nobody knows their child or children the way they do.    

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

Breathe. it is important in pregnancy, birth and parenting. Deep slow breathes. Slow down and be in the moment.

What advice do you have for new parents?

Ask for help and be clear about the kind of help you need. Don't do it alone. We all need support. 


“To One Person, You May Be the World,” and Other Perspectives from Christina Council-King, MD, MPH

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we hear from Christina Council-King, MD, MPH. Christina talks about being a mom and a family physician, and how these two important roles impact each other.  

What are you most proud of in your life?

My son! I truly feel like he is my greatest accomplishment.

What is your passion in life?

People! I love being around people, learning and immersing in various cultures, and traveling to different countries.

If you could compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?

An elephant! They are gentle giants and actually very intelligent with an excellent memory. They are extremely social creatures and family oriented, which is similar to me.

Can you describe a time when you felt on top of the world?

When I graduated from medical school. It has been a dream to be a physician since I was a young child, so to finally fulfill that dream was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

One of my favorite quotes is, "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." You never know the impact you may have on someone's life.

What's does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like?

It is surreal. It is definitely exhausting, but it is a feeling that is just indescribable. In an instant, you have this tiny person who depends on you for everything, but there is an immediate feeling of unconditional love.

What has been most surprising to you about your role as a mom?

I never realized that we (as Americans) are not as breastfeeding-friendly as other countries. It's difficult to find sitting areas to breastfeed while in public.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your mom journey?

Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks!

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

There was one time when Jackson (my son) had a upper respiratory infection and of course because he is so young, he is unable to effectively bring up phlegm. After a feeding, he was extremely congested and had difficulty breathing. It was one of the scariest things to see him trying to catch his breath. I immediately flipped him over and started hitting his back as part of infant Heimlich Maneuver.

What have been the keys to unlocking your mom power?

I think love drives any parent to do anything and everything for a child.

How has becoming a mom impacted your work as a physician?

It's difficult! I want to give my patients 100% of my attention and provide quality care, but I also want to be able to spend time with my son after work and on weekends, which can be difficult at times.

As a physician, have you changed the way you approach your patients since becoming a parent? If so how?

Yes, I think my patience has improved, and I am more empathetic to parents, especially new mothers.

Can you describe a time when you really connected with a parent who was either a patient or whose child was a patient of yours?

Yes, last week I had a first-time mother who was having breastfeeding difficulties and was very stressed over it. I could completely relate and offered her the advice I received from breastfeeding support groups and my own lactation consultant. I also told her "you're doing a great job," which was something I really needed to hear when I was about 5 weeks in to my motherhood journey. By the end of the visit, I could see she was reassured and felt more confident in her natural abilities as a mother.

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It Sort of Feels Like Bad Sex Education: Perspectives on Pregnancy and Motherhood with Jennifer Noll Folliard, RD, MPH

By Martelle Esposito

Today, we hear from Jennifer Noll Folliard, who is a dietitian and a mom-to-be. She talks to us about what she finds motivating and discouraging, about how pregnancy teaches humility, and how her perspective on nutrition for mothers has changed since becoming pregnant.  

What are you most proud of in your life?

My marriage. I am extremely grateful to have found someone who works with me every day to strengthen our partnership and continue to challenge each other to grow.  

What do you find most challenging in life?

 The loss of my mother. I lost my mother 17 years ago, and it still impacts my daily life. It continues to be my greatest challenge, which has shaped me and pushed me to be stronger and more capable. 

What motivates you? And, why?

Connection to people, and learning what makes them unique gets me up and out of bed in the morning. Understanding and supporting the gifts and talents that different people bring to the world helps me to understand the world better. I enjoy working through complex problems, which I believe can always be solved by getting the right people in the room.  

What discourages you? And, why?

When people are unkind to one another. Life is way to short to be that unhappy and to take it out on others. Unkind behavior goes totally against the idea that people working together can solve/do anything.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

I never lose. I either win or learn.
- Nelson Mandela

What has been most surprising to you about pregnancy? 

The most surprising thing about this pregnancy is how difficult it was to get pregnant, and then from there how difficult physically the pregnancy is. My husband and I tried the old fashion way to get pregnant for five years, and with no luck, we sought out the advice of three different fertility specialists. The process of going to a fertility specialist, trying to uncover what the problem is/was, and finally coming to the realization that we should try treatments, was emotionally draining. We decided to give it one more shot (pun intended there because there are SO MANY SHOTS with IVF). We got one viable embryo, and she decided to stick around and make us parents. The other surprising piece of this process is that this little girl has made me so so so sick. I think I hit my lowest point when I had to run out of our dog’s vet appointment to throw up outside the office, and the strength of the vomiting also caused me to pee my pants. Getting pregnant, this pregnancy has been a lesson in humility and really giving up all control. Good practice for being a mom?

What are you most excited for as a mom?

Meeting this little girl, getting to know her, and the joy of helping her on her journey.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your mom journey?

I should have asked more questions of my mom friends. I am a health professional but there are just things that books cannot and do not tell you. I wish that my mom friends had been more forthcoming and I had asked more questions of their experiences of getting pregnant and their pregnancies. It sort of feels like bad sex education … you only get half the story and then you are totally surprised by the experiences happening to your body.

As someone who works in field of health and nutrition, has your perspective changed since you became pregnant? If so, how? 

My perspective has changed to become more flexible and to see pregnancy as a natural process rather than a need for medical intervention. Also, nutrition and health in my own life has always been extremely important, but it is so fun to see the impact of different foods and food make-up on another person.

How have your experiences during pregnancy impacted how you approach or will approach your work in nutrition in the future?

YES! The prescriptive nature of nutrition during pregnancy, which I know inside and out from books, can sometimes be tough to accomplish with so many changes happening at once to the momma’s body. For example, I could not for the life of me keep any prenatal vitamins down. I tried so many prenatal vitamins, freezing the vitamins, taking them with/without food etc., and they all resulted in nausea or vomiting. I finally found a work-around. I could stomach fortified cereal and one chewable children’s vitamin. Working with patients or even thinking through policy changes for nutrition programs impacting moms and babies, I plan to bring in more flexibility of thought and action! 

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On Being a Mama Through Loss and Trauma: An Interview with Marta Johnson-Ebels

By Martelle Esposito

What motivates you? And, why?

In general, what motivates me is to make improvements either in my life or in my community—that sort of thing. I think that applies to me as a parent as well. How can we have a better sleep schedule? How can we address a behavior that doesn’t seem quite right? How can we make things better?

What's does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like?

I think my transition from not being a mom to being a mom was different than most because I had my son who passed away as an infant. So, there was this feeling of like, yeah, I have been a mom or I am a mom, but then there was a year and a half between that experience and then having my daughter. My onboarding to being a mom was also stressful in general. After the loss of my son, I had a miscarriage, and then I had my daughter, who ended up—we didn’t know it during the pregnancy—being born with congenital heart disease and some other medical issues. So, she was in the ICU for two and a half months and had six surgeries, one of them requiring life-long care. So, it was like loss, loss, trauma, and then getting used to a parenting routine that also included things like medical appointments. My daughter is starting preschool soon, and now our day to day is pretty normal. She’s extremely happy and resilient. MRI’s don’t even phase her. The biggest thing for her is, can I go play with kids? Normal kid stuff. So, we also had to adjust to figuring out what is something that needs medical attention vs. what is just being a normal kid.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

It was during my daughter’s stay in the ICU. I had this feeling all day that something was different. Then she didn’t respond like she normally did, and I made it known that I thought there was something wrong. The medical team responded by taking her for imaging and found out that she had blood clots throughout her body. They told me that if I had not said anything and had not been insistent about looking into it, they would have never found this life-threatening problem. I was the only one who knew there was something wrong. It felt awesome that, yes, I know my kid. That was the first time I was like Booyah! I got this!

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power?

Parents really do have this kind of inherent instinctual knowledge. So, I think the biggest thing is, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, whether with medical providers or others. You know your kid.  

Can you describe an experience with health care where your expectations were not met or you felt disappointed?

I have been really disappointed in the process for the emergency room visits for threat of miscarriage, based on my own eight experiences across two pregnancies. The standard of care is usually just to confirm that either you have already miscarried or you are going to at some point. So, people talk to you like you are going through a miscarriage, and now you think you are going through a miscarriage, which is stressful. This is a problem because not all women with heavy bleeding have lost the baby or will lose the baby. I have a history of ER visits with heavy bleeding and no miscarriages. I had a lot of unnecessary stress in the ER.

Can you describe an experience with health care where you felt you were not treated the way you wanted to be treated?

I have mostly blocked out the worst experience, my first emergency room visit, because it was so bad. Since then, it still feels like they still aren’t fully considering the impact of their words on the patient. The clearest comments I remember from my most recent ER experience were, “we can’t do anything for this baby, if you lose it anyway.” I sat down with my actual OB the next day, and he said while it’s true that there is nothing that we can do if a miscarriage starts, there is a lot we can do to keep you calm and in your best position to have a healthy pregnancy. On another fairly recent emergency room visit, someone also said to me, you’ve been through this before, so you’re fine. Are you kidding?!

Can you describe an experience with health care where someone exceeded your expectations?

My current OB has experience with high risk pregnancies, and I feel like the practice has gone above and beyond, especially with my last pregnancy with my daughter. If you want an ultra sound every day, they’ll do it. They’ll do anything that will make you feel more reassured, no questions asked, no judgment. My stress level matters to them.

What would you tell other moms and dads experiencing infant loss and high risk pregnancies about moving forward?

While it was good for the first couple of weeks after I lost my son to share my pain in online mom groups, there’s a limit to what you can find on mom forums. They can quickly make you feel like you are in this bubble of hopelessness. Seeing a therapist helped me work through my pain, move beyond it, and open myself up to the future. Also, one of the best things I did to feel confident in any future pregnancies was go to the CSI of pregnancy loss, a physician who could explain why everything happened the way it did. For my particular situation, it gave me hope that I could have a healthy pregnancy. Finally, if a future pregnancy makes sense for you, find a provider who understands your experience. Providers who specialize in high risk pregnancies or who market themselves to take on high risk patients are more likely to know how to use their words and actions to make you feel supported.


My Mom Helped Me Find My Mom Power

By Marina Komarovsky

As the kind of gal who likes to insist on doing things on my own, I find it really surprising that two months into motherhood, what has empowered me the most has been getting help from my own mom.

When our son was born, I immediately felt a bit behind on the parenting front. First, having had a c-section posed a physical challenge. For the first few days it hurt so much to stand up that being able to both stand and respond to kicking, crying, and potential peeing during a diaper change seemed insurmountably demanding. My partner was changing all the diapers, and I still don’t know what meconium looks like. Second, as the youngest in a big family, my partner has seen all his siblings have their babies. The oldest in my family, I am the first to have one. Even when I felt a lot better, I found myself constantly asking him for instructions. While highly appreciative of such an involved and knowledgeable Dad, I couldn't help but feel that my role as Mom meant that I had to bring something important to the table, too -- not just the breast milk.

When my mother traveled from Chicago to Buenos Aires, where we live, our son was three weeks old and I was just beginning to get the hang of newborn baby care. My family had insisted that my mom come down for at least a month, "because you will need the help." I carefully counted out the latest day our baby could be born to ensure that she would at least arrive after the delivery, “because we want to do it on our own.” With our families far away, that had been how we’d done most of our pregnancy -- supporting each other, seeking out resources, and only occasionally reporting back to our home countries. The day before my mom arrived, my partner and I toasted a half-glass of wine to having been able to do the first weeks ourselves.

When we saw each other, my mom and I both cried. It had been more than a year, and so much had happened: first, pregnancy, and now, this little person who made my mom’s daughter a mom, too. It was so crazy to see each other and share a three-generation hug.

I hadn’t really thought about what to expect, but the next few days were a challenge. My mom was tired from the trip, and it was hard for her to get comfortable in our tiny apartment. I was tired from the nighttime wake-ups and c-section recovery, and it was hard for me to be an attentive host. It didn’t help that my partner and my mom kept looking at me whenever they didn’t understand each other’s English, usually exactly at the moment I had put a forkful of food in my mouth in the middle of trying to breastfeed.

And then there was helping with the baby: My mother was constantly expressing her concerns, and my perspective was almost always different from hers. “We decided to do it another way,” I would take my stand. “That’s not what the pediatrician told us,” I would argue. “That recommendation is outdated!” I would exclaim in exasperation.

My mom tried not to step on my toes, but it was hard for her sometimes. I tried not to be rude, but it was hard for me often. “I’m sorry I’m not being nice,” I told my mom that first week. “I am so happy you’re here. Sometimes I may say no to your advice at first, but I’ll think about it later. Please don’t be mad.” My mom just shrugged: “I’m not mad.” I was surprised. “How can you not be mad?” I would be mad. But then I realized it: This is exactly what it means to be a mom. I felt tension from all the debating, but I also felt so, so much love.

During her month in Buenos Aires, my mother taught me countless tricks of the trade: how to change a diaper without the baby crying, how to hand-wash onesies more efficiently, how to take the stroller up and down steps of different widths, and many others. She also learned enough Spanish to pinpoint the best deals on produce in our neighborhood, analyzed our appliances to help us save on electricity, showed us how to pre-cook base ingredients for simpler meals, and planted flowers on our balcony. I learned to argue less, say thank you, and absorb all her bits of wisdom. We had a really great time together.

All the tips definitely helped me become more confident, but even more importantly, I was inspired every day just watching my mom being my mom.


Finding Strength and Identity in Motherhood: An Interview with Jenny Wiland

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Jenny Wiland, a working mom of a beautiful baby boy and a passionate advocate for women’s rights and human rights. Jenny gets real about how hard, transformative, and worth it motherhood is, especially during the first few weeks.  

What are you most proud of being a mom and why?

For starters, being pregnant is not an easy feat. It’s so draining and full of a lot of judgments. Then there is the birth. Mine was a marathon 37-hours of labor, including three hours of pushing. And my epidural didn’t work, so it was basically like all-natural birth. But, I have never felt so strong in my life. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, or will ever do, and I’m a different person because of it. I am so proud of that. I am also so proud of creating this beautiful person who exhibits affection, who is learning, and who doesn’t yet know of one bad thing in the world. I am just in awe of my son. The sense of privilege to be his parent is both humbling and astounding.

Can you describe an experience that brought out your mom power? 

I labored at home for 24 hours before going to the hospital (that’s when everything went to s***.) The doctors didn’t want to listen to me and what I knew was going on in my body. I had an overall rough start to breastfeeding. And, I was not getting enough support from the people I thought would back me up on my choices, even though their intentions were good. It really toughened me up for motherhood. And, once you emerge out of that “fourth trimester” and into your confident-mom stride, you feel like you can get through pretty much anything and with no sleep. I don’t even know how it’s scientifically possible. Looking back at my progress since my child was conceived, I’d say I went from a pretty strong person to a total badass.

What do you find most challenging about being a mom?

The healing process after giving birth takes a toll on you. Sleep is sparse. Anything your family says to do is easily going to upset you and make you feel like a bad mom. You feel you should be doing so much and you’re not physically capable of doing much. Showering was itself a challenge. Going to the bathroom- Woah. Just traumatizing. A whole other interview. Also, the sheer amount of things that you can and must get done within a day takes superhuman strength and a miraculous amount of multi-tasking. You’ll be holding your baby, feeding them while folding clothes, pumping one breast, and talking on the phone to your pediatrician about a rash. That’s a typical twenty minutes of a mom on maternity leave times 300 throughout the day. Then my husband gets home and asks why the house is a mess when I’ve cleaned it eight times and taken care of the baby all day, and I want to scream.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

People will say things to you that will leave your mouth agape; unsolicited advice and really personal questions. They will intrude on your space, too.

How have you changed since becoming a mom?

I feel that I have had to assess the parts of me who are able to stay and what I don’t have time for anymore. I have been creating a new identity that includes being a mom. In the beginning, I didn’t feel like my whole self. I felt like superwoman yet a shell of myself. Eventually, I started to feel whole as I got more confident in my mom role. It sounds corny, but my child made me feel complete, and watching him learn something new or laugh is the highest high I’ve ever felt. It’s the happiest happy I have ever felt, and it all just feels so natural now.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were pregnant and starting your journey as a mom?

Hahahahahahaha! Breastfeeding is harder than you can ever imagine and harder than anyone, any book, or any class ever tells you it will be. I could. Not. Believe. The. Pain. Why?! I didn’t know if I was doing something wrong, but I soon developed blood blisters in my nipples, and I was so chapped, raw. It was awful. But you know what? Once you get through that dark chapter, it’s so worth it. The only thing that will give you the purest happiness is seeing your baby content. But, I wish people were more real. It’s going to be hell until you get over the hard parts. Then, it’s amazing.

What advice would you give new moms for finding their mom power?

First, you need a support network. For me, it was my other pregnant girlfriends or new moms that could relate. All my other friends or even my husband or mother could not empathize because it was not within their reach or fresh in their minds. Second, always, always go with your gut. You will know the difference between every cry (after a while) and no one’s advice outweighs what you feel in your bones. Whatever you think is best is okay.

Out Pops Baby: An Interview with Christine Mullan

By Martelle Esposito

In our first post on The Launch Pad blog, we talk with Christine Mullan about her mom journey with her two young boys, ages 4 and 18 months. She’s empowered, she’s vulnerable, and we are so glad she took some time to talk with us.

What motivates you? Why?

Praise. That sounds a little juvenile as I say it out loud, but it's the truth. Being told I've done a good job, or that I've inspired someone, or really helped someone—it makes me feel like I could take on the world. 

On the flip side, what discourages you? Why?

Criticism. I find it a little too easy to take any criticism to heart and let it discourage me. I could hear 100 good things and 1 bad, and that one bad thing makes me question everything I'm doing and have done.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

The birth of my second son! My first child was born 2 weeks late after a 3-day induction in the hospital. I was so disappointed because I had been hoping for a natural birth. My second son, also 2 weeks late, was the exact opposite. He was born at 1:30 a.m. in my tiny pink bathroom after a 1.5 hour labor. I was standing over a toilet, and my husband Pat caught the baby. I remember saying "is he really out?" Then Pat put the baby in my arms, and he latched on to nurse right away. I felt pain, but I felt strong and ready. I knew I could do it, and I did. I felt like I was on the very top of the world for weeks after that. I still feel that way.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power? 

Never let fear get in your way. Be unapologetically you. Be the parent you can be and want to be, and don't let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Do you think you have changed since becoming a mom?


How so?

I worked with moms and families before becoming a mom myself. I think I did a good job then, and I had some perspective because I raised my younger siblings. But, I don't think I truly understood the exhaustion, the pressure to know the right thing to do, and be able to do it until I became a mother myself.

If you could compare your mom journey to another experience, what would it be, and why?

Being a mom is like taking a long road trip. It's mind-numbing sometimes, and you're tired of driving, but you get to have cool experiences along the way, and you will look back fondly on all those memories. In the moment, you're punching your leg to stay awake, but later you say "wow, that was really great. Let's do it again."

As a social worker who works with moms, especially those considering adoption, would you say there are some experiences that are just universal mom experiences or feelings, good or bad?

I think all moms want the best for their children. They are always doing the best they can with what they have in any given moment.

Because Mothership is focusing on creating positive experiences with health care, we’d like to learn a little more about your own health care experiences. Have you ever had an experience with health care as a parent or otherwise where you were not treated the way you wanted to be treated?

Yes. After the birth of my first son, we went to our first follow-up appointment with his pediatrician. They made us wait for over 3 hours after 4 sleepless days in the hospital and breastfeeding challenges. The doctor came in and decided to give the baby a bottle, saying something about people wanting to feed babies with spoons and droppers like damn goats, and there's nothing wrong with a bottle. I remember I just sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks, feeling like a huge failure. Then, the baby burped and puked it all up, and I thought "see? you killed him!" A gentler approach would have made all the difference to me as a new mom. I'm proud to say we kept trying. We saw a lactation consultant the next day, and I went on to breastfeed for 18 months.

Shifting to positive experiences, have you had an experience with health care where someone exceeded your expectations?

Yes. I once accompanied a pregnant client to her appointment with a high-risk specialist. This woman was quite poor and did not speak English, and I had seen her be treated fairly but not enthusiastically by various other providers. This doctor spoke directly to my client and looked at her while she talked, even while using me or the phone service to translate. He explained carefully what was going on with her baby, and he let her know that everything would be all right. I was very moved by his actions.

Can you describe an experience with health care where someone made you feel like you were on top of the world?

After the accidental home birth of my second son, I went to a follow-up appointment with a different midwife. After hearing the birth story, she said, "wow, great job! That's amazing, good for you. You are so strong." Hearing her say those simple words out loud really made my week. 

Welcome to Mothership's Launch Pad!

We are a blog dedicated to feelings and connecting through storytelling. We share stories about how we feel as moms, dads, other caregivers, and service providers who are navigating the obstacle course of growing healthy humans.

Each month, we will create several posts on a theme in addition to posting organization updates and random hot topics. This month's theme is empowerment. Stay tuned for more posts! And, please reach out at if you have a story that you'd like to share.