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.

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 …

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:

IMG_6462

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:

AG6A6765web

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.

 

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!

What does a stylist do?

I bet a lot of people wonder: what exactly does a stylist do? My short answer would be: whatever it takes to make you look amazing. From conversing weeks before your photoshoot to discuss what outfit(s) you will wear and the type of moment you would like to capture down to reminding you to get your nails done (if you like painted piggies) and fixing your hair on the day of your shoot, the role of a stylist is almost that of a ghost, but can be found so clearly in the image of your final photos.

I could go on and on about what I do as a stylist (I like to think I also decrease the stress in my clients’ lives) but I am so fortunate that Sandy of Red Lotus Photography actually caught me in action so here, I’ll just show you:

Elena-04

Elena-01Elena-03Elena-02

Lindsay-01


Maternity Girl sells new and resale maternity and nursing apparel in Pittsburgh. She also offers styling services for maternity and breastfeeding photoshoots. If you’re interested in working with Elena for your next photoshoot, please send your inquiry to: maternitygirl@yahoo.com. Elena has worked with many different photographers and has many styling packages available ranging from outfit selection only to day-of assistance. For some final photos in which Maternity Girl did the styling, please check out her Facebook album by CLICKING HERE

Introducing Mama’s MilkBox

I was trying to wait until the 1 year anniversary of my business to make the announcement, but I was so excited, I couldn’t hold back and yesterday I announced, on Facebook, about my newest product and service – Mama’s MilkBox.

photo (11)

Mama’s MilkBox is a clothing subscription service for nursing Moms. Very few Moms have enough time to scour the internet for fashionable nursing apparel and even fewer have the hours necessary to drive to a store and try clothes on. In Pittsburgh, I happily drive to the homes of my clients but I wanted to make the great products I sell available to all the nursing Moms across the US. I mean, shouldn’t everyone have a Maternity Girl in their region?

A Mama’s Milk Box subscription is $49/box and each box comes with a $49 credit to shop. I sell 2 box types: Whole and Skim Milk. A Whole MilkBox comes with 5-7 items and a Skim MilkBox comes with 3-5 items. Upon mailing, you are charged $49 and you have 7 days to try on your items – all in the privacy and comfort of your home. Keep what you like and simply mail back the rest. [Return items must be received within 7 days of your receipt] You will only be charged for the items you keep, less your $49 credit. Shipping to you is FREE.

Some other FAQ are below:

1. Q: When should I sign up for a MilkBox?

A: If you are pregnant with your first baby, I would wait at least 2 weeks to establish breastfeeding and adjust to your new normal. Then, when you realize 2 weeks have past and you’re tired of wearing pajamas, fill out the profile and a stylist will call you soon. If this is your second (or later) baby and you have breastfed in the past and you plan to do the same with your new baby, you can fill out a profile as soon as you decide you want some new clothes. Many vendors design their clothes to be worn during pregnancy and after for nursing. We can ensure you get some new maternity clothes that will also function for your breastfeeding future.

2. Q: Can I buy a MilkBox as a gift?

A: You can! When you fill out the profile, just write in the notes section that this is a gift subscription. If you want it to be a complete surprise, our stylist will call you to talk about what types of clothes your recipient tends to wear. If you want your recipient to receive the full MilkBox experience, we will call you first, just tell us you want them to be a part of the Style Session and then we will proceed to call them directly.

3. Q: What kinds of brands and designers do you carry? How much do each of these things cost?

A: Each MilkBox comes with a variety of brands. This is what our subscribers love most – sometimes because they don’t know where to even look for nursing clothes and other times because they try on a brand they would have never thought of and fall in love. The prices of each of the items in the box varies but it’s roughly $30-$59 for a top and $49-$79 for a dress. You only pay for what you keep and don’t forget – you have a $49/credit with every box!

4. Q: What if I don’t like anything in the box?

A: We pride ourselves on our ability to match our clients with clothes that meet their fashion and daily needs. If you don’t find anything, then expect a phone call from a stylist because we really missed the mark. Outside of that detail, if you don’t like anything, just send it all back and you still retain your $49/credit.

5. Q: Would the credit be applied to my future box?

A: Credits accumulate. You would still be charged $49 for any subsequent boxes, but then you would have a $98 credit for that box.

6. Q: Why is the service every 6 weeks instead of monthly?

A: Mom bodies change very frequently – especially after a baby is born. We felt that a monthly subscription might be too frequent, especially as our clients adjust to their new normals. We also felt that 8 weeks was too long to have to wait for another box – by then some people get bored with their clothes! Hence 6 weeks seemed like the perfect compromise, Goldilocks-style of course.

7. Why don’t you have a “MamasMilkBox.com” website? We’re working on it! The logo is in its final stages and the website is a work in progress. The Mom behind it all is just trying to make sure that until those two things are complete, MilkBoxes still make their way out the door (even with a baby on her hip!)

We hope you sign up for a MilkBox today and if you have any questions, please feel free to click on the little envelope above at the top right to contact a team member. We’ll get back to you soon!

I hope you have a good week y’all!

Elena 😀


 

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to check out the Maternity Girl page. I’m hosting a MilkBox Giveaway with a $100 credit to shop!