Welcome to our series: Perelel Lives. We live in a society that glamorizes and celebrates women‘s careers, the companies they’ve built, the movements they’ve created. But, what we’ve failed to highlight is a facet of their lives that is far more personal—a side that presents perhaps the hardest, but most rewarding job of all—a job with no PTO, no holiday breaks, no sick days, and no salary. Oh, and it also lasts a lifetime: motherhood. Perelel Lives elevates stories on becoming and being a mother from our community of women we admire, women who do it in parallel to their personal and professional pursuits. Here, we have real conversations about motherhood.
Breastfeeding moms may know Whitney Rowell by name or by her business, Miracle Milkookies, objectively some of the best lactation cookies that boost your milk supply. In case the bias wasn't apparent, let's just say team Perelel are *big* fans. But her road to motherhood wasn't the cookie-cutter story you may think. In fact, it was a winding journey that led her to create a community where women can get real about motherhood and find some validation from others who just get it. Oh, and eat a nourishing cookie from one mom to another. Here is our conversation with the mother of three. Here, is her Perelel Lives.
Perelel: Did you always know you wanted to become a mother?
Whitney Rowell: I always knew I wanted to have kids, but I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to have them. My mom had endometriosis and she and my dad struggled to get pregnant for eight years before my mom miraculously got pregnant with me. My parents always said they would have liked to have six kids, but they were only able to conceive one. As a result, I was an only child and always dreamed of having a big family myself one day, although I thought getting pregnant would be a struggle.
P: How did you know when you were ready?
WR: I definitely was not ready to become a mom when I found out I was pregnant! I had just left my full-time job complete with healthcare and benefits and everything in between to start my own marketing consulting firm. I was also in a relationship with a younger guy who I had only been dating for about 10 months. He definitely didn’t have babies on his mind either! Literally two weeks after I quit my job, I was at my OB’s office for a routine pap smear appointment when the nurse asked me to take a pregnancy test as part of a precaution before having the pap smear. When the nurse came back into the room and told me I was pregnant, I was shocked. I actually asked her if we could take the test again. When it was confirmed that I was in fact pregnant, my then boyfriend proposed and we ended up getting married three months later. It felt like we got married and became parents overnight, so it was definitely a lot at once but fortunately it all worked out.
"As moms raising the future generation, we need to continue to have conversations about what we’re dealing with emotionally and physically because healthier moms translates to healthier families."
P: How did you feel about the idea of motherhood with regards to your career or personal passions? Were you fearful of having to make concessions?
WR: I’ve always known that I wanted to eventually work for myself so I could set my own schedule and make time for my children. When I found out I was pregnant at the beginning stage of launching my consulting business, I decided to stay the course and focus on raising my baby while growing my business. I knew I didn’t ever want to go back to a nine-to-five once I made the jump, so I had to sacrifice in other areas. I had a nanny help out a couple of hours a week while I took client meetings. And when I didn’t have the nanny, I brought my baby with me. I definitely struggled finding a balance at first, but when I realized that a true balance wasn’t actually achievable in the way I initially planned, I learned to create a schedule that worked so that I could do what I needed to do for me and also be there for my baby. Since then, things have changed a lot—more kids, more work, more everything! But I really feel like the juggling act I learned in the first couple of years set the foundation that everything else has been built on.
P: Real talk—motherhood is wonderful, but also hard. Did you feel like you had honest support ahead of that stretch of your motherhood journey to really understand what you were getting into? Do you think there’s been a generational shift where women are more open these days?
WR: I didn’t have the support I needed at all in the early days. Not only was I the first to get pregnant out of all my close friends, I also fell into motherhood unintentionally and had no idea what was normal and what wasn’t when it came to motherhood. The challenges so many mothers face, are sadly often ignored or pushed aside, primarily by ourselves. Whether it’s postpartum depression, body image issues, struggling to breastfeed, you name it, getting pregnant and having a baby is a huge life change and we need more support around it.
I do feel like there is a shift happening right now with companies like Perelel creating products to support mom specifically. I am very passionate about this area because I was a mom who needed support and I couldn’t find it without seeking help from my OB or my daughter’s pediatrician. This is the main reason I started Miracle Milkookies. A couple of weeks after my first daughter was born, a friend made me fresh baked lactation cookies. I had been struggling so much with breastfeeding and her small gesture meant everything to me. For the first time since I’d become a mom I felt seen. I tried to find fresh baked lactation cookies online so I could order them for myself but there wasn’t anyone at the time doing that. So I took my marketing background and decided to create a business around giving mamas everywhere a boost.
P: Why do you think so many of us breeze over motherhood like it’s a cake walk in the media? Like we handle it so easily and play the whole “balance” card? We never get real about it publicly. Why do you think that is?
WR: Change is definitely happening with companies like Perelel and Miracle Milkookies paving the way for women to have real conversations about motherhood. The highlight reel on social media is just not real and more and more women are dispelling it. But I do think there’s still this idea that as a woman you are seen as weak if you struggle in any way and this definitely spills over into motherhood.
I believe that behind closed doors, women do open up with their doctors, their husbands or their close friends, but a lot of these ‘behind closed door’ conversations haven’t truly come out in public, until recently. This is just my opinion, but I feel like we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to focusing on maternal health, and this is especially true in our country. For example, in 2019 the F.D.A. approved the first anti-depressant that specifically targets postpartum depression. That was just two years ago! When it first came out, the drug called Zulresso, cost upwards of $30k and could only be administered by an IV infusion over a period of several days. I know this sounds unbelievable, but this is a huge milestone in the medical field towards recognizing that women do suffer from things like postpartum depression and that creating a medication that targets this specific health issue helps legitimize that the ‘baby blues’ are actually a real thing.
To me, this means as moms raising the future generation, we need to continue to have conversations about what we’re dealing with emotionally and physically because healthier moms translates to healthier families.
"I had been giving so much for so long without prioritizing myself at all and my mental health suffered as a result. I literally have to schedule out time for myself in my schedule because it’s that important to me that I truly prioritize making time for myself every single day."
P: How do you take care of yourself or prioritize yourself?
WR: In 2019 I went through a really dark period in my life. It took my faith, my husband, my parents and close friends to pull me out. My husband gave me the opportunity to take a little over 5 weeks ‘off’ of life and focus entirely on me. I know it sounds drastic, but I needed to make a big change or a big change wasn’t going to happen. I had been giving so much for so long without prioritizing myself at all and my mental health suffered as a result. I literally have to schedule out time for myself in my schedule because it’s that important to me that I truly prioritize making time for myself every single day.
My me time looks different daily, it might be going on a walk with a friend, taking a cycling class, doing something creative like painting or making jewelry… but these moments, sometimes even just 15 minutes, are exclusively for me and they are when I get refreshed, reset and energized.
P: What’s the most valuable advice you’ve received about being a mother?
WR: Give yourself grace.
P: What’s one piece of advice you would share with another mom-to-be?
WR: Trust your instincts.