Open Letter to my Kids

I just read, “To celebrate Mothers’ Day, TIME asked influential Moms to write open letters to their children.

For the record, ALL Moms are influential – especially to their children – so as far as I read it, TIME asked Moms to write open letters to their kids. It’s not long, but here’s mine:

B&E,

If there’s only one thing I can impress upon you in my life, it’s this: you have one life to live and it is my wish that you live it. Do what makes you happy. Do what makes your heart sing. Be the person you want to be. Daddy and I will love you no matter what. Don’t worry about us: what we think, how we feel, etc.; we got your backs. You’re going to fall and fail at times. That’s ok. That’s life. Be resourceful, be smart, think on your feet and follow your heart. It has been my joy and pleasure to watch you grow and be a part of the process. In the same way I made vows to your Dad, I have some vows to you too: I will love you no matter what. I will work my hardest to help you figure out exactly what it is that makes your heart sing. I will do my best to teach you how to figure out how to make your heart sing and pay the bills. I want you to be kind to each other and the world around you. When people are not kind in turn (there will be times), I don’t want you to turn to the other cheek and keep trying – I want you to walk away and realize that in your one life, you have little time to waste on people that don’t love you, grow with you and laugh with you. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and make memories – lots of them; especially good ones.

One of my favorite books to read to you both is: How Do I love You? Read it. A lot. Remember and know I read this to you a TON before you even had memories. And if you should happen to have kids of your own some day? Read it to them too because:

I love you as the moon, loves each shining star.

I love all that you will be and everything you are.

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Better Maternity Leave in the United States

Tonight I’m revealing one of my true life passions: better maternity leave options in the United States. Most people would think my passions lie with breastfeeding because of the popularity of my Mama’s MilkBox but while I personally enjoy and promote breastfeeding (when it’s an option), my real purpose (outside this fun I’m having with Maternity Girl and Mama’s MilkBox) is to leave the United States (ie, when I die; sorry for being morose) in a better state so that my daughter, her friends and my son’s wife feel like they have better options.

I have done some reading (I would like to do more) on Canada and how/when their 1 year maternity leave came to fruition. Surely we can do the same here in the United States, yes? But in the little research I’ve done, I’ve realized the key concept is something called their “EI” – Employment Insurance. I haven’t come across such thing in the United States but it’s fascinating and with all the insurance and politics we have here, I’m wondering, “Why not?” and “Could we?”

EI is something you buy in to according to what I’m reading here. I’m thinking it’s almost like a savings plan – and I kind of like that. It might also be like an insurance that is half paid by the employer and half paid by the employee. But before I think about it further, I’m also thinking about misconceptions we might have here in the United States based on what we hear about Canada. For example, I have heard (and previously thought), “Canada will pay 1 year full salary and guarantee your job after you have a baby.” Like all things I hear, I want to read it/find it for myself and since I’m realizing we might want to stop comparing *exactly* as we do (with potential misinformation because I haven’t exactly found that), I’m wondering of United States Moms:

1. Would you buy into Employment Insurance if you could have a year at home with your baby (with potentially reduced income, but income nonetheless) and

2. How do you think we make it happen?

I have talked to (almost/maybe) 1000 Moms and the one thing I am certain of is that most Moms are ready to return to work after 12 months (myself included). After my first child, I felt I had given him as much as he needed and quite frankly he was so independent that I felt bored/useless at times. But I do think babies need us the most during their first year of life and if I can make that happen, well then hey, I’m in. I love my babies and I love being their Mom but I’m really into helping too and making my community/world a better place. So help me. What do you think of my 2 questions above? Let’s get the party started …

How many nursing clothes should you have?

A frequently asked question is, “How many nursing clothes do YOU have?” Makes sense, right? I mean, I would want to know how many breastfeeding clothes the lady who sells them has too.

So I’ll start at the beginning.

I found nursing clothes when I was about 4 months into breastfeeding my first child (circa early 2012). I was suspicious of the cost and use but tired of wearing oversized shirts and feeling self-conscious about my back and belly. To prevent those risks, I scheduled my day around when I needed to breastfeed next (so I only went out in 2-3 hour chunks of time). I still planned to do that but I ordered these two items for fun:

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And while I didn’t love them as much as I loved my Banana Republic, GAP, Loft, Ann Taylor and Anthropologie clothes, it was surprising to me how easy it was to feed the baby and still feel like I was dressed as a human. I can’t remember if I ever really breastfed in public with those tops but I recall my husband finding it nice that I was wearing clothes that weren’t pajamas or old t-shirts too.

So I bought another shirt in something that was more my style:

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And it worked. If I was going out to get groceries, meet a friend or walk the dog – with the possibility I might be a little longer than planned – I wore THIS top. I pretty much lived in this top (even if I pumped a bottle before we left the house) because I felt like I could nurse the baby if I needed to and I felt pretty.

That was pretty much it for my first time breastfeeding because I only made it 9 months. (So 3 shirts that I used all. the. time. for 5 months). That was also 3 years ago. And a lot has changed.

First of all – the breastfeeding support networks have grown tremendously; There are Facebook groups, tons of local LLL chapters, private lactation consultants, hospitals that train their nurses in lactation and more. For example, kellymom was my only resource when I needed help and let me tell you, 3 years ago, the site was bare. It was very useful but compared to what it is today, it was slim pickings.

I also live in Pittsburgh now – home of The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh. That one resource alone (and there are so many more) is phenomenal.

So as you can imagine – the style and availability of nursing clothes is a little more phenomenal now too. When I became pregnant a second time, I went out there looking for the best (also a little more determined to make it to my 1 year breastfeeding goal).

First of all, there are so many more designers. From Loyal Hana who said hello to the scene in 2014 to Boob which goes back 15 years. Milk Nursingwear has also been a staple and now that I’ve been The Maternity Girl for 2 years, I’m able to provide exclusives of my own.

Next, the styles have increased as well. From lace sleeves to assymetrical hems, nursing Moms no longer have to choose between just colors.

With my breastfeeding history (I struggled), I didn’t go out and buy 10 pieces of breastfeeding clothes but I did set myself up for success: one basic t-shirt (which I can’t even find for a photo and wore while pregnant), two tanks, one nursing camisole and a nursing nightgown (which was also useful in the hospital; [sidenote: I can always tell when a Mom has delivered her second or later child based on if she’s wearing “normal” clothes or a hospital nightgown]) and I brought myself to 2 months of breastfeeding with those 8 (remember the earlier 3?) pieces of clothing:

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I wore THE HECK out of all those clothes … to the zoo, to preschool, around the house, out to dinner:

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When the weather started to turn, I invested in 2 more tops and a dress that would allow me to breastfeed in public without feeling like I was stuck in new baby purgatory. This was actually more of a requirement than an option since I was so busy maintaining the toddler’s schedule that I had no ability to arrange my day around when the baby needed to eat:

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I wore the heck out of those items too. That dress? It even made an appearance at the circus:

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A few more months in, I invested in 2 more “fancy” tops (here’s 1):

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This was a personal favorite as I felt I had mastered not only the art of breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public and being a Mommy of 2 – I felt like a normal, pretty woman too! (This was my favorite way to style the above):

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So where does that put us? 12? Somewhere along the way I “retired” my first 2 tops to pajama tops. I had worn them for so long, I didn’t want to wear them in public anymore. Then I retired the nightgown (“for another pregnancy, MAYBE”) and one of my earlier basic shirts became a night time nursing t-shirt too (I get cold easily). Overall I think that left me with about 7-8 items in my “daily wear collection” and if 1/2 of it was in the laundry at the time, I still had 3-4 options to wear (which also worked out really well since I went back to work and didn’t have time to stress or worry about clothes).

Do you need 12 pieces of nursing clothes to breastfeed a baby? No. But I feel that the nursing clothes and the great support I have found in Pittsburgh (especially at the St. Clair Baby, Breastfeeding and Me meetings) have brought me the farthest I’ve ever been breastfeeding – 13 months (and change). On days when it was hard, I didn’t think, “I should just stop this and then I can wear my regular clothes and drink and hire a babysitter.” I mean, I wanted to drink and hire a babysitter but I LIKED. Correction – LOVED my clothes. I didn’t WANT to wear my old clothes. And my investment in those clothes? I didn’t want to abandon that. Or my baby (even when she bit me). So yes – maybe clothes and fashion may seem superficial, but I TRULY believe it’s not. It’s about looking good. And feeling good. And being able to easily do the job that you have when you are a breastfeeding Mom (that is of the MANY jobs all Moms have). As if being a Mom, dealing with your changing body, doing it all on limited sleep and more wasn’t hard enough … at least nursing clothes remove the anxiety of, “What am I going to where?” and the feeling of “Nothing looks good on me!”

So yeah – I think the lady that sells nursing clothes had about a dozen in her closet (but let’s be real, that’s maybe 1/3 of all the clothes you have in your closet if not WAY less. Am I right? ;))

xo,

Elena


Maternity Girl sells new and resale maternity and nursing apparel in Pittsburgh, PA via private appointment and can also be found at Moms Markets, Trunk Shows and all around town in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. She also offers styling services for maternity and breastfeeding photoshoots and offers dress rentals locally. Maternity Girl, aka Elena Petzold, is also the creator of Mama’s MilkBox – a nursing apparel subscription service. With Mama’s MilkBox, all the breastfeeding Moms across the United States don’t have to sacrifice style and comfort just to breastfeed their baby (for only $39/box, you can bring the boutique to your door).

Breastfeeding is Like Training for a Marathon

A long time ago I said, “the first two weeks of breastfeeding are so awful and challenging that if you survive, I think your doctor should send you a medal.” (That’s not even a joke, I think a medal would be cool and trust me, you would totally deserve it!) And I still believe it. If you even attempt breastfeeding, you should get a medal. It is hard work. And after reaching and surpassing my one year breastfeeding goal, I’m here to tell you something I else I learned over the past year: breastfeeding is exactly like training for a marathon.

Now I’m really hoping that last statement sends everyone up in arms because I just want to confirm for you, before you think I’m crazy, that I have run a marathon and I did breastfeed a baby for a year (you can even read all about my marathon training here [where I raised over $5k for St. Jude’s thankyouverymuch]) and let me assure you, seriously, they are the same:

When I was training for the marathon, I had to get up many times at some ridiculous hours, just to get in my training runs. In fact, I remember getting up at 4 or 5am frequently and guess what? I did the same exact thing for my breastfed baby (even more actually).

When I was training for the marathon, there were many times where I thought, “Why the heck am I doing this?” And over the past year, let me assure you, I had many days where I thought the same thing of breastfeeding my baby.

When I was training for the marathon, I had many days where I felt good and thought, “I love this whole exercising like a crazy person thing!” Similarly – you can probably guess it – I had many great nursing days where I thought, “This is so easy and I didn’t have to clean any bottles today!”

Do you see the similarities? There are more…

Marathon training comes with war wounds. So does breastfeeding. I never got a black toe but I did have a lot of chaffing and I got tendinitis in the end. (The kind of tendinitis that was so bad that I had to be wheeled to the gate at the airport). You know what kind of war wound I got while breastfeeding? My baby bit me. The kind of bite that caused my nipple to bleed, left a scar that looked like a botched nipple piercing and caused a breast infection which required antibiotics for 10 days.

You know what else is similar between both? Dietary choices. I drank zero hard liquor, way less beer than I normally would and ate very healthy while breastfeeding. My dietary life was similar while training for the marathon because who wants to drink bourbon, sleep poorly and then wake up to run 7 miles? [Not me]

With my dietary restrictions choices, I also had a certain lifestyle … when I was training for the marathon, eating out, staying out late and going to late night parties wasn’t appealing to me. I mean, having fun was on my list, but I wanted to be successful in my training (and feel good) and all of the above was not conducive to that. Coincidentally, it was the exact same way for me with breastfeeding (or having a new baby, arguably). Any choice for something social required an adjustment in both my training and breastfeeding efforts (re-scheduling my running time, having to potentially pump for supply purposes, etc.)

Was my breastfeeding life devoid of complete fun? No. My husband and I took an anniversary trip where I was away from the baby for 2 nights – and I had a great time! But my breastfeeding goal was still a goal to achieve so I had to pump and take supplements. Was that easy? No. It was hard. It was similar to carrying my travel foam roller and having to figure out how to navigate a city I didn’t know for 5 miles without getting lost just so I could maintain my training while traveling. I had quite a lot of stress leading up to both adjustments/plans.

I can’t even count how many times I pumped in a car (including said anniversary trip) but reaching my breastfeeding goal was important to me. In the same way I wanted to run a marathon, I wanted to breastfeed my baby – so long as I could find a will and a way, it was something I wanted to do.

So I reached my one year breastfeeding goal and once I realized that breastfeeding and training for a marathon are kind of the same, I started to think about ways they might be different. And I only had one conclusion: as a public collective, we celebrate one and not the other.

When I ran the marathon, I got a medal. And I was pretty damn proud of that medal. I wore it all day. I wore it to work the following day. And I wrote on Facebook, “I ran a marathon!” In response, almost all my friends commented, “Congratulations!”

I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 2013 and was pretty proud of that medal too:

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But I didn’t make any such announcements when I achieved my breastfeeding goal. I’m sorry – I’m not trying to confuse you – I would have and I know it would have been met with a “Congratulations!” by many friends – but I didn’t because of this post that I wanted to write and I didn’t because, let’s be real, it wouldn’t be received the same. (Maybe my awesome friends would say, “Congratulations!” but I know even some of them would be thinking, “That’s a little weird.”)

But I don’t think it should be like that! I think if you set a breastfeeding goal for yourself and you reach it, you should be excited, you should be able to share your success and you should get a medal! As you can imagine, that makes me very excited to introduce Mama’s MilkMedal:

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You’re dang right … I wanted a medal and I got it! And I made a bunch for my Mom clients and any other person who wants to be proud of the hard work they put in.

Is this completely crazy? Maybe a little. But it’s totally me. And, in totally me form, I wanted to tie this to something really special and good too … the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank.

Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank is working hard to establish a human donor milk bank serving Pennsylvania, West Virginia and surrounding states. The majority of donated milk will be used by neonatal intensive care units for their most at risk infants … but they’re not there yet. They are hoping to open some time this year and they are still raising funds. So 20% of every medal sold will be donated directly to this cause.

Do you have to breastfeed for a year for a medal? No!  I also have equally fabulous 3 month and 6 month medals available for all the Mamas – currently nursing or who have nursed in the past – to purchase and collect. I even have this crazy vision that all breastfeeding Moms (again, past or present) – update their Facebook profile picture on July 31 of this year which happens to be the day of “The Big Latch On” [The world’s largest synchronized breastfeeding event which also “kicks off” World Breastfeeding Week which is August 1 – August 7)] with a picture of themselves wearing this medal or depicting something else showing they are/were breastfeeding Moms.

One of my mottos/thoughts that I believe in and try to bring to the world is that ALL MOMS NEED SUPPORT. This is one of my efforts for currently breastfeeding Moms, Moms who may want to breastfeed in the future and the community that surrounds me. Please help me! And thanks in advance.

xo,

Elena

PS – you can buy your own Mama’s MilkMedal by CLICKING HERE (only $20 – s&h included – plus tax)


Elena Petzold is also known as The Maternity Girl. She sells maternity and nursing apparel in Pittsburgh via private appointment and at Moms Markets and Trunk Shows. She also provides styling services for maternity and breastfeeding photoshoots and she rents maternity dresses locally. Recently, one of her services – Mama’s MilkBox – has gained quite the popularity as her clients, fans and followers have also come to realize they don’t have to sacrifice their beautiful, Mama style just for breastfeeding function.

The Holidays – A time for great surprises!

Long before I ever had a baby, I used to think about ways I would tell my husband I was pregnant. The top of my revelation list was baby socks … I planned to buy 2 dozen and basically take over his entire sock drawer so he could open it to say, “What are all these socks?” or “What are all these socks doing in here?” I would either look at him coyly, or reply, “What are all those socks?” or “I’ve stocked up because we’re going to need them.” or “Whoops! Wrong drawer!” etc. I thought about this a lot (can’t you tell? ;)). When the time came, it didn’t happen anything like I planned (but that’s another story).

When I was pregnant a second time, it was even less fun and uneventful than the first time around. By then, we had been together so long that I couldn’t even unwrap the pregnancy test without detection. He thought I was in the bathroom for a long time. He heard a wrapper. I stepped out and he said, “So are you pregnant?” Romantic. Right?

But the feelings of fun and excitement (and sometimes stress and worry!) about a pending pregnancy have not departed from my heart. Every time I get to share in the giddy excitement of a new pregnancy or share in the joy of a “pregnancy reveal” – especially in surprise form – my heart beats a little faster. I have no impending announcement myself but I can’t turn my mind off of the many, fun ways people could share their news of a pregnancy:

The Maternity Girl Idea Board for Announcing a Pregnancy During the Holidays


Maternity Girl sells new and resale maternity and nursing apparel. She also provides styling services for maternity and breastfeeding photoshoots and rents maternity dresses in the Pittsburgh area. If you’re interested in purchasing items, you can check out her online store (a project still in the works), sign up for a Mama’s MilkBox (a nursing apparel subscription service) or send her a message to make an appointment.

 

A Holiday Gift for Moms and Moms-to-Be

Gift-giving for new and repeat Moms isn’t necessarily that hard: a massage, a cleaning service gift certificate, a baby-sitter, a Maternity Girl gift certificate, jewelry, watching the baby/children for 5 (or more!) minutes so Mom can go to the bathroom in peace (you’re supposed to NOT call her or ask questions while she’s in there), etc. But giving a gift that Mom will truly enjoy, that she didn’t think of herself, that also costs less than $15? Here ya go:

Born Free Nighty Night [Nursing] Light:

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I was turned on to this product via a Mom client who has been using it and she tells me it’s amazing.

You’ll notice I put the “nursing” portion of the product title in brackets … that’s because I think this product can be used by all Moms. Being awake with a baby at night isn’t just about breastfeeding – there’s also bottle feeding and diaper changes and, quite frankly, the baby that just wants to be awake. Of course we try to encourage babies to NOT be awake by keeping the lights dim, but sometimes it’s so dim you can miss a smear of poop – or even worse – get it on your hand while wiping … and neither of those is fun. Hence this light!

So if you’ve been thinking about fun stocking stuffers or something for Mom that she wouldn’t even think of herself, check this item out!

Happy Holidays!

Elena

The Facebook Black Market

If you didn’t already know, let me be the first to tell you that there are several sub-layers of e-commerce that exist on Facebook. There are groups. Hundreds. Probably even thousands (or more!) of groups in which people “B/S/T” (Buy-Sell-Trade) or “FSOT” (For Sale Or Trade) and gosh knows what else. In Pittsburgh, baby and kid items resale is hugely popular. A couple of the Moms’ groups that I’m in are also very active (and helpful!) with ‘Mom inquiries’ so when I was pondering about what type of hip-sling to acquire for my very-attached-to-me-baby, I decided to pose the question to a group.

The feedback was very helpful. At first. I basically wanted to know, “Is there anything better or less expensive than this fancy $100 (minimum) Sakura Bloom that I keep seeing all over the place?” My baby loves being carried but my arms, back and other carriers (Ergo and Moby) were not great for what I currently needed.

First, I learned you can actually use the Ergo on your hip (and this was before noon! I felt so accomplished with this tidbit even if I did nothing else all day!) but I tried it as soon as a few Moms told me about it and still it didn’t seem to work for me (the straps seemed to hit my baby in the face and she was trying to crawl out … I think she thought this new “hold” was a game). Then, as the responses poured in, I learned about 10 others brands/types of carriers that I had never even heard of, which, according to each Mom, was awesome and potentially just as expensive so I was back to square one. I was on the verge of getting ready to research each and all but then another Mom chimed in, “I tried the Sakura. Twice. And it wasn’t for me.” That comment just set me on the path back to the Sakura (another Mom told me it was her favorite but she didn’t buy because of the cost) – so I asked the Mom who had tried it but didn’t like it, “Would you be willing to sell it?” She was!

So she and I decided to meet later today at a half-way point (which I am still eternally grateful for) and I suggested we meet in front of an LA Fitness that “I constantly drive by which always seems to have an empty parking lot.”

With baby in tow and a little bit of excitement for what I anticipate will be the greatest carrier of all time [I’m dedicated to the task and don’t mind having to use it 15 times before I fall in love], I set off for what would be the world’s busiest LA Fitness parking lot (duh! I drive around during the day, when people work, and am home, feeding kids, when most people go to the gym!”

But no worries … her “big black truck” was already parked in front of the LA Fitness with hazard lights on. Let me set the scene further … it is raining, dark and my baby is crying in her car-seat …

As such, I walk around to the sidewalk, grab the baby carrier (I don’t want to leave the baby crying in the car!) and head over to the big, black truck. I stand next to the passenger side window. And wave. The woman waves back. After a few seconds, I wave again. She rolls down the window. “Hi!” I say, “I’m here for the Sakura Bloom.” She looks at me like I have 4 heads. “I’m sorry?” she asks. So I confirm, “The sakura bloom. From facebook!” She gazes at me. And then, someone appearing to be her teenage daughter, pushes past me to rush into the car from the rain. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were the woman from Facebook who I am meeting. I am meeting someone here to purchase a Sakura bloom [her eyes look scared] – the baby sling.” “Ok!” she says as she closes the window. And then she drives away. And then my baby starts wailing again and all I can think is, “Oh my god. I think she thinks I was meeting someone to purchase drugs! [I did have cash in hand] I think she thinks “Sakura Bloom” is some kind of code for some street drug! She’s probably driving home telling her daughter,’whatever you do, don’t ever try Sakura Bloom.'”

I rush to put the pissed-off baby back in the car and out of the rain. I am a little embarrassed. Very humored. I’m also partially afraid someone saw the whole scene and is going to call the cops saying, “There is a Mom outside the gym, trying to buy drugs and she has her baby with her!”

The whole thing has my mind racing while I laugh and think about whether or not people use their babies to cover a drug ring (probably – I watch tv sometimes) and then suddenly my facebook seller pulls up behind my car. She gets out (I wasn’t about to get out a second time!) and we exchange a giggle as I tell her that previously I knocked on some stranger’s window and I’m pretty sure that lady thinks “Sakura Bloom” is code for drugs. This all happened a few hours ago but I still think it’s pretty funny so even though I should be sleeping now, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share something that might make a pregnant woman pee in her pants. Maybe I’m also secretly hoping that the Mom with the teenage daughter will see this blog post and it will confirm that I do not buy or use street drugs? Maybe. But I mean, she’s clearly of the generation in which “baby slings” barely existed (I think her teen was 15?) so who knows. (A girl can dream, right?)

As for the Sakura? I don’t know yet. I was too tired to look at videos, read pamphlets and play with my real-life-baby-doll. I’ll get back to you on that some other day 😉


Maternity Girl sells new and resale maternity and nursing apparel in Pittsburgh. She also rents maternity dresses (locally) and provides styling services for maternity and breastfeeding photoshoots. Maternity Girl is the creator of Mama’s MilkBox – a nursing apparel subscription service; it’s where fashion and function meet for a heck of a lot of fun! If you want to see what she’s up to now, be sure to “Like” her on Facebook!