Sincerely Tommy Owner, Kai Avent deLeon Shares Her Journey To Motherhood

PHOTO OF COURTESY OF KAI AVENT DELEON
I never gave childbirth a lot of thought until I got pregnant in 2018. I can honestly say I was not well versed on what it meant to be pregnant and give birth outside of what mainstream media shows us. When it comes to diet and wellness, I have a pretty holistic lifestyle, so I was attracted to the idea of working with a doula through my pregnancy journey and giving birth at home. Going into this pregnancy, I experienced some anxiety after suffering two losses: a miscarriage in February 2017, followed by an ectopic pregnancy in October. I felt like I hadn't had enough time to heal physically, mentally or spiritually from those experiences.
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Owning and operating a small business didn’t make that any easier. I often got overwhelmed trying to be an organized business owner and present for myself and the being growing inside of me — it has been my biggest challenge to date. I didn't get a maternity leave or take any time off. I was literally moving boxes in my store's stock room at eight months pregnant.
I think we're often fed this idea that pregnant women are handicap or are given slack. That certainly was not my experience, and isn’t for many women. I dealt with everything from people who wouldn’t give up their seat on public transportation, to employees watching me get down on my hands and knees to clean up rather than offering to help. Honestly, it felt really empowering to know that both as a woman and as a future mother, I could still hold my own.
I think that same force was heightened when it came to actually giving birth. After being in labor for 36 hours at home, I had to come to terms with having to go to the hospital. Although my doula and midwife were both trying to respect my plans for a home birth, I knew something was not right. My partner drove us to Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn (a building I always thought looked drab and dreary as a child growing up in the neighborhood). After waiting almost three hours, I was told I had to have an emergency C-section. During the surgery, I lost a lot of blood and needed four blood transfusions. But as soon as I heard my son crying — as though someone snapped their fingers — I woke up. I just wanted to know that he was okay. He was perfect.
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I realized you don't really know what motherhood is like until you are actually a mother. At the time I got pregnant, it felt like everything was happening at once. I was taking on another side of the business on my own, I had a high turnover of employees. There was a point where I was pushing too hard. I was just trying to manage a lot. I learned to be a lot more understanding of mothers, especially those who have their own businesses.
There's an Instagram glamour that makes people think you've got it all together and you're succeeding. It hasn’t all been perfect, but I look at the downfalls as opportunities. The struggle is a blessing. Being a mom and a business owner is hard. But I feel very blessed that I can even have my own business. I think there are a lot of women who have had it harder.
It's hard to narrow down my birthing experience to one specific moment, because there is so much to navigate before and after you have a child: who you are as a mother, an individual and so much more. Ever since my son entered my life six months ago, I find that I am less reactionary and more determined to create the environment I want for myself and for him. It's absolutely the greatest gift — and most mirroring experience — to become a mother.
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