The Birth of a Mama - Renee Frojo

Getting to know new Mama & Entrepreneur Renee Frojo

Age: 34

Children’s ages: 2 and 5

City: Sausalito, CA

Occupation: Content creator and Co-Founder of Taavi

Instagram handle: @ms.reneelynn and @taavi_village

 

1) Exploring identity change in motherhood.

What was the transition to motherhood like for you?

Challenging. While I took to motherhood and breastfeeding and all that really easily and really well, it was the shift in identity and responsibility that I struggled with. Ultimately, I realized that I was (like most mothers) simply under-resourced and under-supported. I didn’t have the support I needed from my partner, my family was far away, and there were very few systems in place to help me through the transition. New mothers are raising families in an unprecedented time in history. We’re doing the work of a village virtually alone. My friendships helped.

How did your identity change?

While I welcomed the changed wholeheartedly, I found myself in many moments of panic, doubt and loneliness. My life seemed to have changed overnight, while everyone else around me was just going about as usual. It was really isolating. I had to figure out where I was within the scope of motherhood. So much so that I created an entire publication around the transition and shift in identity called the Woman Born, which was my first business before Taavi.

Did your career change?

My career was constantly in flux, but I did make changes based on the fact that I wanted and needed more flexibility than ever before. I did the thing so many moms do and set out to become self-employed so that I could set my own hours and work around my kid’s schedule, while also being fully available for everything they needed.

How would you describe yourself pre-baby? How do you describe yourself now?

Ha! Pre-baby I was way more carefree. Post-baby I’m way more high strung. But not always. I’ve done a really good job of taking care of myself and prioritizing my needs so that I don’t burn out, become too overwhelmed and ultimately a bad mother, partner, employee, employer and friend. On a positive note: I’ve always been pretty compassionate, but motherhood has expanded my ability for empathy even more. These kids make me feel more for everyone and want more for myself and them. I was always driven. Now I’m even more driven to make things happen for all of us.

2) Understanding that you can’t completely prepare.

What do you wish you knew that you learned the hard way?

You have to ask for help. You can’t expect people to know what you need—especially the people closest to you. Also, people want to help, they just don’t know how. They’re waiting for you to guide them on what you need. Once I stopped pretending that I was okay and had everything under control and started asking for what I needed, everything got much easier.

Knowing what you know now, what would you change?

I wouldn’t stress so much about what the birthing process would look like. I wouldn’t have stressed about having the nursery done up perfectly or obsessing over the registry. Also, I would’ve gotten my first on a sleep schedule starting in week two. (I did that with my second and it was a game-changer.)

3) Cherishing the memories.

What is your happiest memory?

Oh, so many! The one that comes to mind is the first time my eldest tasted mango. She couldn’t get enough of it. It was like sensory overload for her.

What was most difficult for you?

Sleepless nights. All the sleep regressions really got to me when we were in the thick of it. I need 8 hours of sleep to properly function. But, they’re always temporary and you do come out alright on the other end.

4) Getting all the gear.

What would you definitely purchase?

Baby carrier, bassinet, nursing pillow, a pacifier and a lovey.

What was a total waste?

All those cute newborn outfits.

What do you actually need?

Car seat. We also tried to do without a proper bassinet in the early weeks and that destroyed us. Pretty much everything else you can wing it.

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?

Luckily, I had my Indian mother-in-law cooking amazing Indian food in the first few weeks, which I totally believe helped with my breast milk production. I had an overabundance! And as a cook, I know the importance of eating nutritious meals.

What worked for you?

I prepped a bunch of freezer meals in the last few weeks before the baby was born. I also did those meal kit deliveries so that my husband could cook some healthy meals. Smoothies were a great way to get nutrition, as was just having some fresh veggies prepped in the fridge. Also, keep it simple. Tossing a bunch of veggies with olive oil and salt and roasting them is all you need to keep up some nutrition. No need to stress over prepping big elaborate meals. It can get boring sometimes, but that’s what takeout is there for!

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?

That you’re going to have some sort of struggle no matter what. My problem was an overabundance of milk. There was a point when my baby was throwing up every time she nursed because she overate and then I produced more! I went to a breastfeeding support group and learned of the myriad of problems people have. But with some coaching and guidance from lactation experts and advice from friends, we got through it.

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?

I absolutely agree that change begins within and in the home. I started by educating myself. I bought myself some books on race and white fragility, which I’m working my way through now and recognizing where my own inherent biases are. I also bought a couple dozen books for my girls that cover race and have a variety of characters as the protagonist. I’m conscious about the media that they’re consuming and conversations that we’re having.

8) Snuggling in.

What are some favorite books and activities to do with your baby (0-12 months) and toddler (12-24 months?).

I’m a super active mom and love having experiences with my kids - from early babyhood to childhood. We’re constantly outside, at least once a day, exploring new neighbourhoods, parks and places. Recently we love using our imaginations with puppet shows and charades. I think in the 0-12 month rage we need to put less pressure on ourselves to “do something.” They’re learning so much from just being alive at that age and everywhere you take them and everything you do is a learning experience—as long as you’re engaged.

9) What traditions are you creating and celebrating?

We have a tradition to meet friends for pastries and coffee once a week that we all look forward to. It’s a fun way to break up the monotony of the week and it gives us a moment to focus on our community and give time to friendships and connection.

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?

Oh, definitely. I like to have flexibility and do things on a whim, but when it came to baby’s sleeping and eating, a schedule was the only thing that helped me keep my sanity. I knew when things were happening and so did she. Also, she just slept and ate better when it was scheduled. That’s what worked for us. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner with my first (we started around 4 months).

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?

Ugh, the struggle is real. Sleep schedule, sleep schedule, sleep schedule. Pick one that works best for you. It’s the only thing that worked for me.

Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share?

Practice the pause. If your baby or kid is whining or crying or vying for your attention, just wait a minute before you respond. For me, teaching patience is everything! Also, don’t forget to take care of yourself (seriously, it’s good for everyone)! Sometimes, your needs need to come first—or at least simultaneously. Your kids are watching you! Imagine what you’re teaching them by not eating a real meal and just picking up the scraps?