Mummy Connect: "My Daughter Has Given Me A Sense of Purpose.." - Vannette Tolbert Opens Up About Motherhood
I am very excited to officially launch Mummy Connect, an extension of The Post Pregnancy Boujie Express in which I will be bridging the gap between mummies from all around the world. From Ghana to Liberia to Europe to The U.S. to The Philippines and more. As a mom, reading and hearing about motherhood from other mums is so intriguing to me. While our journeys may not be exactly the same, we are all on this wonderful journey together and you never know what you’ll learn from someone else. You never know how another mummies story can give you courage, can make you smile, can remind you that you are not alone.
I am kicking off Mummy Connect with an interview with the beautiful Vannette Tolbert. Vanette is a first time mom currently based in Liberia. A couple of years ago, Tolbert took a gigantic leap of faith by packing up her bags and relocating back to Liberia from Maryland, U.S.A. In moving to Liberia, Vannette has worked with brands such as Orange Liberia, Cellcom GSM, GrowLiberia, and many others, using her exceptional experience, creativity and hard work in pushing these brands back into the forefront.
….but Vannette’s greatest creation is definitely her sweet baby girl, Anaïs, whom she welcomed just seven months ago. How has motherhood changed this Liberian-American boss babe? Vanette opens up to Mummy Connect.
What did you feel emotionally when you learnt you were pregnant?
Well, it wasn’t a planned pregnancy; but Anaïs was conceived in love. We were shocked when we found out that we were expecting, but both happy and excited.
Give us a mini-version of your birthing story.
I told my partner and the midwife that no matter what I said during labor, I did not want a epidural. I wanted to be completely present for the birth of my first child. I wanted to feel everything! Ha!
I had to be induced so I was in labor for about 24 hours; so by the time active labor kicked in, I was exhausted. I couldn’t fathom another 9 or ten hours of contractions every 2 minutes, and then every minute… “Okay, guys… forget what I said before. If this is going to take forever, then just give me the shot!” I said. I got the epidural and I was in heaven. I literally felt nothing during the subsequent contractions. So I took out my phone and started sending updates to my friends and family members.
Little did I know, the baby was closer to coming than we thought. About an hour after taking the epidural, she was crowning. I put one leg on my sister’s hip and one leg on the nurse’s hip. I pushed once as hard as a could and the baby’s head came out. “Did I poop?” I asked the midwife, as this has been one of my biggest birthing fears. She said, “No,” and laughed.
Then I looked at my partner who was holding my hand and I asked, “Is she lying? Did I poop?” He assured me that I hadn’t.
So I pushed twice more and out came the baby! I grabbed Anaïs by the shoulders and pulled her out and onto my chest… and in that moment, as I held her slimy, little body and cried and prayed… my whole life changed.
How have the past few months been?
A lot of people have asked me this question. They last 7 months have been amazing! I have younger siblings, cousins, a niece and nephew; so the workload that comes with being a mom was expected. I’ve been an insomniac since college, so the lack of sleep was expected. But what surprised me was the realization of my ability to love someone so much. The love you feel for your child is unlike any other kind of love.
Have you made any major changes in your outlook of life as a result of becoming a mum?
As an entrepreneur, I have gotten accustomed to working all day and night, conducting business meetings at ungodly hours and making myself available at a moment’s notice when a new opportunity arises or disaster strikes. I got so used to staying up all night working and running on fumes because I hadn’t had time to eat all day.
Being pregnant made me realize that my time and energy were finite and that I had to protect them. When it was just me, I could skip a meal or two and just keep going. Now that I was responsible for nourishing this new life inside of me, I had to eat, sleep, rest, etc. like her life depended on it.
When it was just me, I would work for 17 hours a day; but when I got pregnant, I was extremely selective about which meetings to take and became much better at prioritizing. Now that she is here, I’m glad that I know how to prioritize and I’ve really learned the value of my energy and time.
How has your daughter impacted your life?
Anaïs has given me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It’s not just about me anymore. Now, it’s about being the best version of myself that I can be; so that I can prepare her to be the best version of herself that she can be. Every decision, every thought, everything I do is about her now. She has changed everything.
What has been the biggest shock once you took baby home?
I don’t think that I have had any major shocks since taking the baby home; but I do remember having her dad with me in the US for the first two weeks before he returned to our home in Liberia for work. The moment that I realized that I would be doing it alone for the next 6 months was kind of scary… actually really scary. But I didn’t really have a moment to dwell on the fear or to let it consume me, because here was this little person looking at me, needing me to give her 110%. So we made it happen and everything was fine. We got into a routine and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be.
So far, what’s the best part about being a mum?
I would say that the best part of being a mom, for me, is the connection that I have with this amazing, little person. The way that Anaïs looks at me and smiles when she wakes up in the morning and the way she gazes into my eyes while I’m nursing her... these are moments that I will cherish forever.
Have you been able to find any me-time?
I am terrible at this! Especially since it was just the two of us for the first 6 months, so we’re very attached to each other and I take her with me everywhere I go. But I do use the little bit of me time that I have to exercise. That’s the only time that I can do something just for me and my mind isn’t completely consumed by thoughts of her and what she might be doing or what I might be missing.
As a first time mum, did or do you feel the pressure to drop the baby weight?
Yes and no. As a former model and personal trainer; I did feel pressure. But I realized that the pressure I was feeling was self imposed. I thought that everyone expected me to snap back quickly, when no one actually cared. I was the only person rushing myself to drop the weight. I wasn’t used to this new body - the stretch marks, saggy skin, huge breasts, things that never used to jiggle suddenly jiggling...
But now I have daily pep talks with myself, reminding myself that it took 9 months to make my daughter and that it would take time to heal and recover from that miracle. I also remind myself that my body has changed in amazing ways and will never be the same again. Having those thoughts in the back of my mind has helped me to deal with the pressure.
I work out a few times a week. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t. I eat what I need to eat to keep my milk supply up. I'm a clean eater, so I don't really need or want to diet. The most important thing is taking care of the baby right now and making sure that she gets what she needs.
What’s in your diaper bag?
What would you say has been the most useful baby product you have?
The Newborn Boppy was amazing and I used it so much between birth and about 3 months.
Quick makeup routine…
I have neglected my routine lately, lol.
But since I’m looking a bit more exhausted these days, my main concern is brightening up my eyes. For this I use Fenty’s brow pencil, Fenty’s concealer for the under eye area, NYX liquid eyeliner and
MAC Zoom Fast Black Lash or Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara.
I brush on a bit of Fenty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Setting Powder to even out my skin tone and Anastasia Beverly Hills bronzer if I have time. Then I just put whatever lipgloss I have in my bag on lol.
Quick meal prep…
My favorite quick and healthy meal is baked salmon filet, couscous and steamed broccoli or spinach. This literally takes me about 25 minutes to prep and I usually make enough to eat for 5 days, and package each meal in a plastic container and stack them in the fridge for easy reheating.
Lastly, what advice would you give other first time mums?
Remember that opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. I got into a few arguments with the older women in my family over how much to feed the baby, etc. and I realized that I was wasting my energy. People will offer advice and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your child. They don’t mean any harm. They’re just trying to be helpful. Let them give their advice because guess what? You don’t have to take it!
You can find any info you need on the internet. If you’re not sure about anything, look it up! We have access to such valuable information now, so use it and make your life as a parent that much easier.
If you need help - ASK for it! If you need a nap, find someone to watch the baby so that you can nap. If you're feeling depressed, find someone you can talk to about your feelings. During pregnancy and after having the baby your hormones can be a mess, plus you can't sleep and you've got so much on your mind that it can be overwhelming. Find someone you trust to talk to or talk to a professional.