MomsIRL Feature: Nyssa Founders

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We are so excited to showcase this week’s triple threat BCB Moms IRL (in real life!), Mia Clarke, Eden Laurin and Aubrey Howard, co-founders of Nyssa, a movement that helps illuminate the reality of what happens in the first few months after giving birth: the Fourth Trimester.

Continue reading to learn more about these rockstars mompreneurs who we love and know you will agree and be sure to check out their interview with BCB Founder and CEO, Lindsay Pinchuck, on IGTV!

We want you to meet our BCB #MomIRLs…

Name: Mia Clarke Eden Laurin Aubrey Howard

Age: MIA: 36 EDEN: 36 AUBREY: 34

Kid(s) and Ages: MIA: Neva, 2 EDEN: Bo, 2.5 AUBREY: Learning, 3 soon!

Where do you live? Chicago!

Other than a mom, what do you do? MIA: Aside from my role as Chief Creative Officer for Nyssa, I’m a freelance copywriter and brand strategist. I’m also doing a little music producing on the side, and am currently assistant producing the Chicago band Ganser’s second album.

EDEN: I am CEO of Nyssa, as well as Managing Partner of The Violet Hour, a cocktail bar in Chicago. I also am cofounder of 10, INC, a consultancy for product development in beverage and restaurants. I am president of a non-profit called The Drinking Fountain and I like to take photographs through our studio, Studio Calabash.

AUBREY: I am Chief Product Officer of Nyssa and co-run the beverage and hospitality consultancy 10, INC with Eden. I love taking on new projects and am currently assisting with the writing and conceptual development for a book to be published in 2020, doing freelance graphic design and am about to release an album.

What’s your background?  How did you get to where you are today? MIA: I was the guitarist in the British rock band Electrelane for many years. We recorded four albums and an EP, toured the world and supported bands like Arcade Fire and the Beastie Boys. I started a career as a music journalist and DJ at age 16 and worked as a music journalist for 14 years, most recently as the opera columnist for Time Out Chicago. I then switched careers and was creative strategist and writing manager at Bluedog Design for 5 years before leaving to pursue Nyssa. I’ve also co-edited a book, The Art of Touring, about musicians’ lives on the road.

EDEN: My background has been in beverage product development for many years, from designing spirits to drinks, to a line of non-alcoholic mixers that I created for The Violet Hour and sell in Binny’s and Foxtrot Market. I have always enjoyed finding solutions to either optimize or create a better product. From businesses that I have had that no longer exist, to those that have survived the years, I have learned invaluable lessons on growth and scale and finding opportunity where the current market might be lacking. After going through the birth process and seeing how antiquated and inadequate the solutions were for healing I knew, without a doubt, that we could make it better.

AUBREY: My background is actually in literature, fine arts and library science but I certainly didn’t have one clear path to get to where I am today. I have enjoyed a number of successes and failures along my professional (and personal) journey, starting in digital learning programs and museum archival work and transitioning to the hospitality space where I served as the Director of Events at The Violet Hour. I even ran an online vintage clothing boutique. I have come to the conclusion that often the things that we are most suited for and most enjoy doing, the things that give us purpose, are sometimes not the things that motivated us in the beginning. I’ve gotten to where I am today by taking risks, following passions and never underestimating the power of good friendships.

What are the 5 things you never leave home without (other than your phone)? MIA: Notebook, wallet, keys, Joan Didion book that I never have time to finish, red lipstick (you never know when you might need it!)

EDEN: Notebook, several pens, a coffee and/or water bottle (I have a fear of being thirsty), my lip gloss and sunglasses! I actually usually forget my keys and wallet!

AUBREY: Nothing. I 100% of the time leave the house having forgotten something essential.

If there were 1 product or service that’s helped you survive motherhood, what is it? MIA: Kniepp Pine & Fir Mineral Bath. A daily bath saves my sanity!

EDEN: My peri bottle given by the hospital, though we called it a ‘ketchup dispenser’ because it’s exactly what they use at the hotdog stand down the street.

AUBREY: Esther Perrel’s podcast ‘Where Shall We Begin’ and any podcast from Radiotopia. We had just moved when my son was born and I didn’t have many connections in our new city. The transportive power of a good podcast cannot be underestimated.

What are the 3 most useful products you loved when you had a baby? MIA: Wildbird carrier, Babybjorn Bouncer to keep Neva in place when I needed a quick shower, Sitz Bath with calming herbs

EDEN: Sleep sacks, we called our baby a Bo-ritto when he was wrapped up and he always slept so well in his sack! Our sound machine and the Babybjorn bouncing seat saved me a number of times!

AUBREY: Moshi Twilight (it’s an app that tells sleepy stories and was not only the only thing that relaxed my babe, but relaxed me as well), my Madela pump and the baby wrap.

What’s your go-to easy family dinner? MIA: I’m obsessed with Alison Roman’s recipes at the moment. Especially her turmeric and chickpea stew. I love making a big pot of soup or stew that can last my family a couple of days. You put in the time upfront but then it pays off!

EDEN: I love to cook and bake. I love to cook pasta and use my Mom’s sauce recipe (hit me up at hello@nyssacare.com and I’ll share, it’s long!) but when times are wild, our family eats a LOT of tacos. Thankfully, we live by some of the best spots and Chicago has incredible food options. Also, a member of the Nyssa team, Ellen Kellogg, has an amazing food blog: Offscript Recipes, check it out!

AUBREY: SOUP. My child loves soup of any kind and though it’s not ideal for our laundry load, I like to make a big pot once every week or two and freeze half of it. Our freezer is currently packed with all kinds of delicious meals that can easily be reheated and taste just as lovely. I cook on instinct (for better or worse!) and rarely use recipes.

How do you balance it all?  Do you have any #momhacks to share that makes this easier? MIA: The only way I can maintain a sense of balance is to carve out time every day to have a bath. It is absolutely essential to my sense of wellbeing. Of course, I’m super busy so it’s usually at 6.30am, with a cup of tea or 11.30pm, with a glass of wine. But I always make it happen!

In terms of #momhacks for those who don’t care about baths as much as I do I would say: be kind to yourself. Prioritize time to rest. You are your child’s world and that truly is good enough.

EDEN: I often feel the pressure- that I place on myself- of not getting it all done. First and foremost, forgive yourself for not getting to that email, or that pile of laundry or that homemade something. I try a lot of organizational techniques for mapping things out and planning what I need to accomplish, which can be great! But then your babe just wants to be held for an hour and that whole list goes out the window. Instead of getting anxious, I try to just breathe it out and be in the moment, and then rework the list later on. Also, it’s important to be honest. To your partner, family and friends- tell them you are feeling overwhelmed or how you are feeling. WE DO NOT NEED TO SUFFER THROUGH IT. Parenting is a job and you would tell your coworker if you needed assistance, right? Last one, meditate. Even if for just a moment. Find a time EVERY day, to consciously breathe and be alone with your thoughts.

AUBREY: I used to get overwhelmed when in the middle of spending real one-on-one quality time with my boy, a thought regarding work or one of the hundreds of things I needed to take care of popped into my head. To be exact, it would make me feel guilty to step away from my kid to find my notebook or when I would pick up my phone to write a note. My partner installed some massive whiteboards from Home Depot in the hallway in between the kitchen and the living room, which made it incredibly easy to jot down thoughts or to-do’s when I am in the middle of something. Just getting it out of my head in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was ignoring him in the middle of a game or playtime helped immensely.

Talk to us about mom guilt…do you have it?  How do you combat it? MIA: ‘Mom guilt’ is very real and pervasive in our culture. And it’s extremely damaging. I don’t have ‘mom guilt,’ I refuse to. If I’m away from my child it’s because I’m either working to provide a good life for her, or I’m seeing friends or having a date with my husband or going to a rock show. All of which are critical to my sense of wellbeing so that I can be a better and more fulfilled mother when I’m with her. I think ‘mom guilt’ is, at its origins, a patriarchal notion designed to keep women conflicted. We NEVER speak of dad guilt, do we? We live in a society that does so little to support mothers, it’s no wonder that so many of us do end up feeling guilty but we need to flip the script. Instead of asking how to assuage mom guilt we should reframe the narrative. Lauren Smith Brody (author of The Fifth Trimester) writes a lot about mom guilt and I love this line I read of hers: “The better question—a better use of our emotional energy as mothers, is this: How do we change those circumstances to help new parents feel supported so they can make compromises they’re comfortable with?” I think that’s the conversation we need to be having.

EDEN: Mom guilt is very real. The expectations that are put on us by other people’s social media feeds and these standards for cute, designed, healthy, no sugar, well filtered and always happy motherhood experiences, paired with this ‘be everyone’s mom and do it well’ image of parenthood that rolls over from each generation, compounded with ‘I am a modern woman, I love to work and need to keep my identity’ – is INTENSE. I combat it by reminding myself who I am. I am not someone’s definition of a mother. I am not someone’s definition of a partner. I am mine. My goal is to be the best that I can be, and every single day I work towards that: empathetic, consistent, open, engaged, loving, focused and I don’t care about my social media feed.

AUBREY: I have felt guilty in the past, mom-guilt if you will, particularly in that first year postpartum within the context of returning to work. When I am faced with it, I think of some cold, hard facts. Modern parents lack the support of an older generation of relatives, many of whom don’t live nearby or are still working themselves, to watch the kids when the parents are at work. Childcare often costs as much as a full-time job for one parent. Paid and unpaid maternity and paternity leave are most often incredibly short – and that’s if your workplace offers them. Healthcare is expensive. On top of all that, according to recent studies, modern parents spend more time with their kids than any previous generation, not to mention the myriad of blog posts you can read about the right way or style to raise your kid. So when I put it into context, I realize that it’s hard for the majority of parents out there, and instead of trapping myself in guilt, I try to feel a sense of connection.

What is 1 thing no one really knows about you? MIA: I had a pet crow as a child.

EDEN: I played division one volleyball for Depaul University and we won the NCAA championship.

AUBREY: I once had lunch with Salman Rushdie.

What message do you think every woman should hear? MIA: “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” —G.D. Anderson

EDEN: Love yourself.  Accept yourself. It may be something you have to do every day, the work is never done. Treat yourself as your own friend, boyfriend, partner. When you think a mean thought about yourself, would you say that to your friend? If you don’t take the time to love and accept yourself, will you ever believe the person next to you that is trying to do the same?

AUBREY: To both women and men: read the passage on ‘becoming real’ in The Velveteen Rabbit at least once a year.

What motivates you most? MIA: Curiosity. The desire to keep learning and experiencing new people, places, ways of thinking, etc.

EDEN: Passion. I want to pursue things that give me fire in the belly (harkening back to those tacos).

AUBREY: Love. Feeling connected to others.

What’s at least 1 regular family routine you have implemented to keep your family running smooth?MIA: Daily dance parties! Even if it’s just for five minutes, we play records (my daughter loves hip-hop) and dance together before her bath/bed routine. It’s a really fun, lovely moment in our day.

EDEN: Morning lay together, we get Bo and try to do even 3 minutes together all in one bed and talk about our day ahead. Also, Sundays are family day (though work can sometimes intersect with this!), we try to keep it a day to tackle domestics and eat pancakes and play with cars.

AUBREY: Well, this one is somewhat new since my kid has started sleeping in a big bed but every night before it’s time to read and cuddle he gets a wild burst of energy. Instead of fighting it, which is mind-blowingly awful when your kid is headstrong like mine and suddenly has the agency and autonomy to get out of their own bed whenever they please, we jump. 15 minutes of wildly jumping and throwing pillows at each other until he’s exhausted.

Who is in your mom tribe and how did you meet them? MIA: I was extremely lucky that a handful of my best friends, including Eden and Aubrey, gave birth a few months before me, so I had a strong group of mom pals from the get-go. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them.

EDEN: I am beyond privileged. My best friends had babies at the same time and have been my life force. My other best friends didn’t have babies and allow me to be an outlet for talking about what I am experiencing constantly and how my identity continues to shift. The women in my family are EXTRAORDINARY and have supported my motherhood, business and lifestyle in every way possible. I am outrageously lucky.

AUBREY: Eden and Mia have been the most supportive and encouraging partners, both professionally and in life, that anyone could ever hope for. There’s nothing quite like taking big steps in your life, whether starting a business or having a babe, in tandem with some badass women. To be able to enjoy your life on multiple dimensions with the same two people is incredible. Another friend who gave birth about six months before I did constantly checked in on me both before and after the arrival of my boy, and I can never thank her enough for being so present despite the fact that we live in different cities.

What is one piece of advice for new moms that you wish someone told you before motherhood? MIA: So many things. But I really wish I had been more prepared for my postpartum recovery. I had some serious birth injuries that made my situation particularly intense but still, I had no idea that it is common to bleed for weeks afterwards. Or that breastfeeding, if you are able to do it, can be very painful. I didn’t know what diastasis recti was. I knew about postpartum depression, but I didn’t know about the full spectrum of mental health issues that so many mothers and fathers experience. I wish all this information was common knowledge. That’s a huge part of what we are doing with Nyssa – trying to share these realities of postpartum recovery so that birthing parents and their partners, family, and friends can be better equipped to care for and support the adult alongside the baby.

EDEN: It doesn’t end at birth! Your body, mind, relationships and identity will continue to grow and flex long after you say goodbye to the hospital. People will check on you less, they will focus on your less and they will not necessarily remember to ask how you are. Make space for yourself, find products that support your healing and remember to write things down!

AUBREY: That the first year will most likely feel like ten. And that the amount of change you’ll undergo would normally fit comfortably in ten years, not one. We can so easily fall into a pattern of neglecting our own needs in the chaos that is that first year of motherhood, but really taking care of ourselves – both physically and emotionally – is incredibly important. Take your time, when you can. Everyone’s journey is different, so give yourself the space to figure out yours.

When you have time to yourself, what do you like to do? MIA: Finding time to myself is hard these days but, honestly, my favorite thing to do is walk without listening to anything or talking on the phone. It gives me time to reset and clear my head. I also always go to the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago if I’m feeling down or under the weather. Everything feels better after half an hour in the fern room.

EDEN: I love to ride my bike! Even just a short ride on Chicago’s 606 trail feels like a breather for my brain. No cell phones, no conversation and just some air!

AUBREY: Read in the bath. In my mind, there’s almost nothing as luxurious and relaxing as reading in a hot, soapy tub. One of my life-goals is to someday have a library with a clawfoot tub smack-dab in the middle of it.

 

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