Happy Friday, mamas! I'm excited to bring back the #MamaNextDoor series and continue to introduce you to some incredible women in our community. Women who inspire us through the way they show up in the world, the way they serve their communities and their passion for making our world a better place for future generations. Women who are business owners, inventors, trailblazers, glass-ceiling breakers, change-makers, ground-breakers, visionaries and entrepreneurs. Women, mothers, friends who, like you and me, often live right next door to us.
Today, I'm honored to introduce you to one of the beautiful mama-models from our latest brand photoshoot. Vincia lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and a 9 month old baby Adam (who, by the way, made his modeling debut at our photoshoot earlier this month). Though I've only met Vincia through email, I'm beyond thrilled that we connected and truly hope we can meet face-to-face one day. She's kind, warm, grounded and her radiant smile instantly lights up the room (and the camera)! The whole team adored working with her and her little side kick. I hope you'll love reading through her candid, thoughtful, heart-warming responses and getting to know a bit more about the gorgeous mama behind our latest brand photos.
Tell me a bit about yourself before you became a mother, and how did you change after becoming a mother?
I know it is a mama cliché but I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I dreamed of the day that someone would call me “mommy”. I grew up in a pretty large, and close knit family, and the second oldest. I think from early on taking care of others, and helping to make things better for them was ingrained into me. My Granny would often refer to me as “Princess Diana” when I was a little girl referring to my kindness and willingness to help others. Other times it was just princess referring to my determination to get my way in most situations. I was/am someone that once I set my mind on something I put my all into it. I would like to consider myself a Go-Getter. Before being a mom, that thing was work hard and play harder, so a combination of working long hours and planning vacations at the spur of the moment.
I still enjoy both, and I am looking forward to traveling again with and without my son. However, my priorities have shifted and I prefer to spend my long nights with my son.
I am also typically the “go to” person for family and friends, which I am happy to be. Nonetheless since becoming a mom I realized that I was not doing the same for myself. I am now more in tune with my own needs, and begun extending the same grace and support to myself.
Tell us about your breastfeeding/pumping experience. Anything you’d want to share with a new mom preparing to breastfeed her child?
I knew that I wanted to breastfeed, as much as I knew that I wanted to be a mother. However, all I knew firsthand were stories of women who “couldn’t” rather it be due to lack of support or education. Breastfeeding in the black community has a long and often dark history after all. It was a lot to tackle but I knew in my heart that I wanted to change that for myself and my family. I wanted/want to make breastfeeding the norm. The first step I took to do this is by creating a support system during my pregnancy that would understand my needs and wants. My Doula, Shanika Helaku (Moon Mama Magik) was an essential part in this system. Shanika really helped to put not only my worries, but my husbands at ease. The greatest take away was that normal, and natural does not automatically equal easy. She also constantly reminded me to listen to my inner voice, and her and my husband helped to amplify it when needed.
This really came in hand after delivery. My son, Adam was placed directly onto my chest after delivery and it was as beautiful as I imagined it would be. The first latch however, was a little more awkward and less instinctual than I thought it would be. Luckily, my son latched immediately, once my doula helped me figure out what to do with my hands, and how to turn my breast into a sandwich for the first time. I was so excited that we did it, and to begin our journey! We were then provided information on breastfeeding, the support the hospital would give, and Adam even got a sign declaring him a breastfeed baby. I wish I could say that my journey was happily after from that point but it wasn’t. It was within a few hours that rather my milk would be enough became the theme of visits from the nurses. He wasn’t eating as long or as often as “prescribed”. So the suggestions of formula, and pumping quickly entered the conversations, and I no longer felt the same support. I refused formula, and continued to put him to my breast as I was confident that he was obtaining colostrum. I’d seen evidence in his frequent spit up, as he worked up the amniotic fluid he gulped on his quick exit earth side. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow harming my son by choosing this route instead so I agreed to pump. I was brought a hospital pump, and pieces and left to figure it out in the middle of the night. I watched as the flanges fogged up and tiny drops of colostrum formed, but didn’t produce tubes of milk as I’d seen online. The next morning I gleefully awaited the lactation specialist, to reassure me or tell me what I was doing wrong. She checked the latch and said all was well. I didn’t exactly feel that way but I took her word for it. Once we got home it felt like I was feeding around the clock, sleep became a distant memory, and late night IG scrolls became my best friend. It was in a late night scroll that my suspicions on everything not being well were supported. I learned the recent painful addition to my breast was a milk bleb, and that babies can latch perfectly and still have a lip/tongue tie. Luckily, my dentist confirmed at visit (she had offered to check previously, once the baby was born after noticing my husbands during a cleaning) ,and referred us to a specialist for lip/tongue tie reversals and therapy
The stretches were terrible as new parents, but our feeds improved greatly.
I began pumping in anticipation for my return to work. I would say I have a love/hate relationship with pumping. I’m still learning to get out of my head, and not focus so much on each individual session output. I do love that it has allowed me to continue our breastfeeding journey(currently at 9 months) as I work. Pumping and I have come a long way since the first night in the hospital. I give credit to getting the right tools, and support from my doula and Chicago Birthworks Collection teaching me how to use them. I also have to give my husband and mother in law credit for being the best bottle and pump part washers.
I would share with new moms preparing to breastfeed the things that have gotten me to 9 months.
- Natural, doesn’t mean easy. If it feels hard it’s not a sign you’re doing it wrong, but it may be a sign you need help.
- Trust your instincts
- You don’t need a deep freezer full of milk
- Breastfeeding clothes can be functional and fashionable (I work as a hospital administrator so both are important)
What does your absolute dream version of motherhood look like?
My absolute dream version of motherhood is based in community and support. A society where mothers can share their triumphs and struggles openly without judgement. It includes raising loving, genuine, and kind tiny humans that make the world better. The opportunity to show them firsthand what that type of person looks like. It also includes lots of baby snuggles, giggles and less biting of the milkies.
What societal or cultural messages about motherhood frustrate you and how would you like to see them changed?
The extremes of motherhood either being a ray of sunshine or that it is the worst thing. I think of it as a labor of love, and although hard work is an aspect of it, it is worthwhile and beautiful. Also the message that moms have to do everything at all times. That’s impossible in my opinion. Instead, do what you can and ask for help with what you can’t.
How do you take care of yourself? How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?
I’m still figuring out what that looks like. Sometimes it’s just being vulnerable with my husband, shedding some tears and admitting the day was hard, other days it’s a deep scroll in the driveway and a hot bath. Everyday it's giving myself grace.
What’s a topic related to motherhood, or life after becoming a mother, that you wish we talked about more?
I wish we talked more about preparing to go back to work. I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was or the rollercoaster of emotions it brought. It was like the 2nd shoe of postpartum dropping but per society and the workplace everything is back to normal. We have the pressure of showing up 100% on day one and being the same person but we’ve changed. We now carry an additional mental, and emotional toll along with the physical changes. I now had to figure out how to dress this new body, and for the first time how quickly I could pull my breast out at work.
I think it should be acknowledged and additional support outside of “this is where you can pump”. My employer offers an employee assistance program for wellness and being able to utilize the counseling services truly made a difference. I was also thankful that I discovered MLM brand during my first week back, and now have one less thing to worry about.
Photography: Julianna Presley Photography
Creative direction: Ready Pretty