I love talking about the motherhood journey with other moms, expecting moms, and anyone who’s even thinking about having kids. Why? Because we don’t get to do it enough and parenting can be really, really rough without a community. And there are times, even with a community, that it can be pretty lonely. Maybe you’re nursing or warming bottles late at night, delirious from no sleep, on the verge of tears, googling some sleeping or eating hiccup your kid is having because you’re worried about the worst case scenario, and you just think you can’t text or call anyone who will understand. Or maybe you’re not the mama who’s comfortable asking for help, even when you have others who’ve offered.
My advice? Open up, friend. Nothing you’re going through is new, and it’s especially nothing to be ashamed of. But if you’re just not ready to share yet, I got you. Read below for some mom-isms from two mothers that inspire me tremendously.
Extra TV host Tanika Ray is a single mom in Los Angeles grinding and making it look easy. But she’s also very transparent about her mom journey. Between her social media and panels and conversations she’s been a part of, I’ve observed that she is a mom’s mom. She makes great efforts to let moms know they’re not alone, and I’ve been struck by her warm, comforting smile in passing and genuine mama support which I’ve experienced and heard from many others.
That’s why I knew Tanika, mom to her 4-year-old mini, was the perfect person to welcome, Myleik Teele new mom to baby Noah, to the club. Myleik, the founder of curlBOX, was fascinating to me because she was juggling new motherhood with entrepreneurship. Maternity leave? Who’s in charge? I can relate — although, my husband and I are partners in our business, so I always have some sort of backup. Myleik, though in a committed relationship with her son’s father, is solely responsible for running curlBOX, the first monthly subscription service for naturally curly hair, and she even hosts her own podcast with 2 million downloads and growing!
I had to know more about the highs and lows of this new adventure. I hope it’s as enlightening and relatable to you as it was to me!
Tanika Ray: Congrats on your beautiful baby boy!! How old is he? Every month brings new adventures, what phase is he in today? What type of lil man is he?
Myleik Teele: Thank you so much! He’s 5 months and the most curious little person on the planet. Everything is going to be discovered by going in his mouth first, and he went from being remote to turning over and even scooting around some (hide everything)! When people meet Noah the first thing they notice is his huge, gummy smile – it doesn’t take much to get a smile out of him. Noah is calm and joyous and just a pleasure to be around. I’m often asked if he ever cries. He does but not often.
TR: We read that, after years of putting your career first, you were sure you wanted to be a mom and had even frozen your eggs by the time you met your current beau. At what point did you tell him you had babies on the brain?
MT: So, the story with the egg freezing is that I had very close friends that had put their careers first and when it was time to have a baby it was too late. Those friends suggested I look into freezing my eggs just after my 35th birthday. I went through all of the steps (and CASH) to do so only for the first round not to work. I decided after ONE round of attempting IVF (that’s essentially what it is minus fertilizing the eggs and putting them back) that the whole freezing thing wasn’t for me. Just after my failed attempt I met my current beau. The whole ordeal was so fresh that I pretty much told him everything so he knew going into the relationship that I had babies on the brain (not pressing but looming) and that I didn’t have 5+ years to date and what not before having a child – it was more like a 2-3 year window. I was upfront and honest, and he understood.
TR: What were your first thoughts when you found out you were pregnant?? What was the status of your relationship and how did that affect you emotionally while preparing to bring a child into the world.
MT: I took a pregnancy test about a month and a half after miscarrying, so I was a bit skeptical that I could even be pregnant again so soon. At the time, my partner and I were solid in our relationship and had decided that 2017 would be the year that we would begin trying to start a family. From the moment we began dating I always felt this deep sense of family – there was this sense of safety that he provided me. While I was nervous about being pregnant and not knowing a single thing to expect, one thing I was most confident in was the relationship.
TR: When I was pregnant, I knew I was in a flawed relationship but I still got engaged and tried to make it work for the precious baby growing in my belly. Did you feel the pressure to try to build a family for your unborn child? Get married? Fix the relationship? Make tough compromises?
MT: Ugh. I’m sorry to hear this, and as a new mom this makes perfect sense in the moment. Why would you not try to do everything you can to set the stage, even if it means sacrificing yourself? That’s what we do as mothers – we sacrifice ourselves for our children, minute by minute, day after day.
My partner actually told me that he would marry me if I felt like I needed to be once we got pregnant. I didn’t feel that way, I still don’t feel that way, and so we aren’t married. I don’t allow the outside to penetrate what I know is true in my heart. Once I was pregnant, I decided to go inward, turn down any external noise, and focus on keeping myself healthy and calm for Noah.
TR: You had your son at 39 years “young.” In the medical industry, pregnancy after the age of 35 is classified as a “geriatric pregnancy.” Girl…It happened to me and we can probably agree how highly disrespectful this is. Ha! Every time they would announce it during my doctor’s appointments, I wanted to check them with… “excuse me I’m a Black woman who looks 25, so calm yourself with all your labels!!”
Did this happen to you? And how did it make you feel?
MT: OMG, YES! Haha! I think they were calling it “advanced maternal age” or something silly. I didn’t feel old at all but, because of my age, my pregnancy was considered “high risk.” It wasn’t until I got to the 20-week mark and Noah passed every test with flying colors that they decided to slow down with all of the appointments and probing.
When I miscarried in May, I felt awful leaving that appointment. When I asked the nurse what I could do since we wanted to try again, she basically said “NOTHING” because I was too old. So, when I ended up getting pregnant again a little over a month later, I felt vindicated!
TR: I just knew all their concerns about my age would be put to rest because age is truly nothing but a number. My greatest concern was having absolutely no feeling in my fingers for the last 5 months of my pregnancy. What was the toughest part about your pregnancy?
MT: Yikes! The toughest part of my pregnancy was the fibroid degeneration. That took me out. My fibroids started to break down and the pain was unbearable – I was put on medication twice. I gained 60 lbs, and I’ve been the same weight since high school. My body (mainly my knees) never quite figured out how to support me!
TR: I loved being pregnant. It slowed my life down and gave me a chance to reflect on what kind of mom I wanted to be. I nested and chilled unapologetically!! How did you spend your pregnancy preparing for life’s sweetest gift??
MT: Lucky you! I can be honest and say that I didn’t necessarily love being pregnant.
I just never really felt that great while pregnant. I had to do a bit more boundary work during my pregnancy. It was interesting that my pregnancy resurrected some issues that I thought were resolved. I cut off some relationships, paused others, and established a few new ones. Since my pregnancy wasn’t exactly the best physically, I wanted to make sure that I got my mind right in preparation for delivery.
TR: What were you most surprised by in your journey?
MT: I never really had any fantasies about becoming a mom, so I genuinely had no idea what to expect or to even wonder. I continue to be amazed by the bond I have with my teeny tiny baby. It is the deepest love I’ve ever felt.
TR: You are truly a Boss Mom with your own business and now a beautiful baby boy! What did maternity leave look like for you?
How long? Was it enough? In a perfect world, how long would you have wanted to take off to be with your baby?
MT: I’ve had my maternity leave “out of office” auto-responder on my email for five months and let’s just say I’ve yet to really have any time off. I didn’t go into the office for the last few months of my pregnancy, but I still worked up until the night before I delivered. I’m still working every day, even though I’m telling people I’m not. I don’t really have that luxury as a business owner.
I now work in and out of the home (with a full-time nanny) depending on what’s going on with the business. I am exclusively breastfeeding Noah and plan to do so for a year, so I come home every 2-3 hours to either pump or feed him during the day. So far, I’m planning to have this sort of flex schedule for a year – if I need to extend it, I absolutely will.
TR: How has your day to day as a mom-prenuer changed since becoming a mom? How did you redesign your schedule? What did you take out of your life all together? What’s new on the sched that never existed before?
MT: After having Noah, I REALLY wondered what the heck I actually did all day. The days FLY BY now … MY GOODNESS! I used to wake up around 5 a.m. and get a bunch of stuff done before the workday started at 9:00 am. Today? My eyes are crossing at 5:00 am because Noah is still waking a few times a night to feed.
I also used to get home from work and basically work until I went to bed. Now I have a hard stop to my workday at 4:45 pm because I relieve the nanny at 5:00 pm. I put my son to bed every night which is the highlight of my day – we both wind down together.
I hate to admit that I’m not really exercising like I used to. I have committed to ONE day per week. That’s all I can really do until my schedule lifts some. I don’t take nearly as many in-person meetings as I used to or travel as much (last year I hit platinum on Delta, this year I may make Gold). I’m saying NO to a lot of things this year because I don’t want to leave Noah behind right now. He’s been on all but one work trip with me, and we’ve only been away from each other for two nights.
TR: Moms have different rules for sharing their babies on social media. When it comes to sharing your baby with the world, what’s your philosophy?
MT: I’m still struggling with this one. I initially didn’t want to, but then I turned into the mom that shows strangers at Starbucks pictures of the baby. I’m THAT mom! Hahaha! So, I show him from time to time in my Instagram stories and every so often on my actual Instagram. I think I’ll continue to see how I feel. If for some strange reason I stop feeling it, I’ll just stop.
TR: When I became pregnant, I didn’t have friends in L.A. with children. All my girls were still living the single life. When my lil one was about 4 months old and I was existing in a spit up, breastfeeding, “when did I last shower” fog, I realized, I need to find some other mommies and stat!! I never knew how important a tribe of moms would be in my life, but then I found Mocha Moms. I looked forward to our Wednesday afternoon park play dates like it was a trip to Bali!! We laughed, we cried and shared notes and tips on this unpredictable but amazing world of mommying. It helped me get my life back.
All mommies, single, partnered, or married need a support system. Its vital! Who was your support system? Was it easy to find?? Greatest asset to having solid support?
MT: My closest childhood friend and I have babies exactly one year apart. I went through her pregnancy and infant experience with her and then she literally held my hand through mine with all of her fresh, firsthand experience. As I type this we’re texting about the new stroller she just got (my recommendation). We don’t live close but we talk, text, and FaceTime often.
Funny enough, there are only two other black women in my neighborhood, and all three of us are new moms. One has a one-year-old, and the other just had a baby less than a month ago. When I had Noah, my neighbor that had already had the experience brought over food and sat with me, and I went and did the same when our other neighbor had a baby. I find myself treating new moms so delicately because I know the feeling.
TR: Being a mom changes us!! It’s the greatest reflection in life that gives us an incredible opportunity to grow. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in yourself?
MT: I am a much softer person. There have been things that have happened since having Noah that would have gotten someone checked, but today I don’t even have the energy or desire. I care about my energy as it relates to Noah. I ask myself, Is whatever it is worth exposing him to a negative shift in energy?” I know one day he’ll be exposed to it, but I want to manage how often it is. I love my son more than anything in the world, and I always want to make sure I’m not only saying it to him but showing him with my actions and choices.