Children’s ages: 15 months
City: Palm Beach Gardens
Occupation: Co-CEO of Socialfly + Co-Host of the Entreprenista Podcast + Co-Founder of Markid
Instagram handle: @stephjillcartin @socialfly @entreprenistas
1) Exploring identity change in motherhood.
What was the transition to motherhood like for you?
The transition to motherhood for me was extremely natural, but it was also overwhelming. I had a very hard time getting pregnant and an even more complicated pregnancy, so when I came home after 11 weeks in the hospital and I had to leave my daughter in the NICU, I completely crashed. Those first few weeks were extremely challenging trying to navigate my emotions with this new responsibility. I was thankful to have lots of support from friends and family during this time.
How did your identity change?
I do not feel my identity changed after having Mollie. I have always said that I was born to be a mama and have a family. It was as if my daughter was the missing piece to my identity.
Did your career change?
My career did not change but it has been an interesting journey trying to navigate work and spending quality time with Mollie. I was out of my office physically for 17 weeks of my pregnancy because of my complications and was only able to work from home and the hospital. It was important for my business that I was able to jump back in as quickly as I could after having Mollie to be there for my team and business partner. I physically and emotionally did not feel ready at that time, but it was what I had to do. I remember crying each morning as I left my daughter at home. It was definitely not easy.
How would you describe yourself pre-baby? How do you describe yourself now?
Pre-baby I definitely had more energy! The sleep deprivation is definitely real but somehow I have learned to manage it. On the weekends I try to take at least one nap when Mollie is napping which has been key!
2) Understanding that you can’t completely prepare.
What do you wish you knew that you learned the hard way?
I wish I knew how important it was to be educated about breastfeeding. Because I was in a tough situation as I was living in the hospital for the 11 weeks leading up to the birth of my daughter, I was not able to attend any childbirth or classes on what to expect with breastfeeding. I did not know how to properly pump so I, unfortunately, ended up getting mastitis within 3 days of delivering Mollie. It was up there with the worst pain I have ever experienced.
Knowing what you know now, what would you change?
I would encourage as much education about childbirth and breastfeeding as possible prior to delivery. For me I always find it is best to be prepared.
3) Cherishing the memories.
What is your happiest memory?
Throughout our pregnancy, we did not know whether Mollie was going to be born alive and able to breathe. My happiest memory was when she was finally born and I kept asking over and over again if she was okay and the doctor said “she’s breathing and perfect”. I will never forget that moment and often think about it.
What was most difficult for you?
The most difficult part of my pregnancy was dealing with the unknown. I held onto hope and the belief that Mollie was going to be okay and she would defy the odds… and she did!
4) Getting all the gear.
What would you definitely purchase?
A few of my must-haves include the OXO Tot safe saving drying rack, The Elvie Pump if you are going back to work and want to pump and still be able to walk around and have meetings and a boppy!
What was a total waste?
There’s not much that a newborn baby really needs and every baby is different and likes different types of seats, chairs and rockers. I learned that buying new, expensive items can definitely be a waste as many of these products are only used a few times. This is one of the reasons that I Co-Founded Markid, a parent marketplace to shop, buy and sell baby and kids gently used items. I’d definitely encourage moms to shop preloved for pricier items as there are so many products that are in perfect condition for a fraction of the price at retail.
5) What about mama?
We’ve found that with all of the focus around the baby moms tend to put themselves last. This can be as true for finding a minute to take a shower or bathroom break as it is for being able to eat or prepare meals. If your breastfeeding this becomes even more critical as your nutrition becomes your babies. Did you struggle to eat well in the first few months post-birth?
I struggled to eat enough calories after giving birth and to keep up with all of the pumping. I felt like I was running a marathon each day and my body was so exhausted. I needed help and reminders to eat and drink. It is true what they say that your brain chemistry changes after giving birth and I know it took me several months to physically and mentally feel like myself again.
What would have been helpful?
It would have been helpful to have a meal plan or meal delivery service catered to new moms. I found it so difficult to do this on my own.
6) Feeding Baby (0-6 months)
Nothing seems to have created more judgement than the way we choose to feed our children. Breastfeeding is filled with benefits, but not always possible for a myriad of reasons, and that’s OK too. What do you learn from the feeding journey that you wish you knew going in?
Again, I did not have much knowledge about breastfeeding prior to having Mollie. It was a steep learning curve. It took months to get in a real groove and when I went back to work in my office it was extremely difficult to pump multiple times a day and I had so much pressure on myself to be able to pump enough milk for her. I am now 15 months in and still breastfeeding and I still have lots of questions and am always learning. I am grateful I have been able to continue to breastfeed and I struggle with when to know it is time to stop.
7) Discussing the tough topics.
2020 has been fraught with pain and conflict. The coronavirus pandemic has also peeled the lens back on other human struggles. Most notably the black lives matter movement. As parents, we have the unique opportunity to collectively build a healthier generation. This is as much about the minds that we help form as it is about the bodies that we help build. Creating an anti-racist society starts at home. What are you doing in your home to help build a healthier future?
Mollie is only 15 months old and I am doing my very best to teach her, even at this young age, about the world. I hope to always be a positive role model to her and teach her about inclusivity, love and respect for all.
8) Snuggling in.
What are some favourite books and activities to do with your baby (0-12 months) and toddler (12-24 months?).
We are obsessed with Lovevery toys! I have noticed such a difference in her growth since she has been playing with them.
9) What traditions are you creating and celebrating?
We try to celebrate each day as we are lucky and grateful we have every day together. It has been a strange time with COVID and not being able to have gatherings and celebrations with friends and family, but we are doing our best to still celebrate important milestones together.
10) Creating Routines.
Routines can be a lifesaver in the early days, even if just for your own sanity. What worked for you? Did you try to keep to a schedule?
I have learned not to compare ourselves and our schedule to others and we have to do what works best for us. Every baby is different. Something that has worked well is having a consistent bath time and nighttime routine. I can tell that Mollie looks forward to each step and it is exciting to see her grow and learn.
11) Sleep glorious sleep.
Sleep deprivation is real! Because it’s not challenging enough to learn to look after a tiny human. How did you make it through with getting your baby to sleep as well as yourself?
I am still working through this and sleep has definitely been an ongoing challenge for us. My best advice is to try to nap when your baby is napping, especially early on. I know there is so much to get done but sleep is so important.
Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Everyone’s story is unique and we are all doing the best we can do each day. I have learned not to compare my story or journey to others as well as the milestones that Mollie may or may not be hitting. I chose to celebrate life each day with Mollie and always have hope, no matter what.