One of our ducks is sitting on her eggs, and like a lot of animals in the springtime, she is following her instincts, waiting out the incubation period for her ducklings to emerge from their shells.
Human motherhood has similarities to the wildlife experience, but for one local woman, the hatching process began a few months after her baby was born.
When Laura Berens of Santa Clarita gave birth to her daughter, Kya, she experienced the same feelings of elation and fatigue that generations of women felt before.
And in the postpartum process she discovered something missing. As a competitive bodybuilder-turned-wellness coach, Berens completed her doctor-ordered postpartum rest period and wanted to begin working out again. But she couldn’t find fitness clothing for new moms.
“After you have a baby you’re exhausted. You’re taking care of this little one, you barely have 20 minutes to work out and no time to change clothes,” Berens said. “Then you have to work out in leggings that don’t feel comfortable around your belly.”
But the one article of clothing Berens built her business on was (thanks to Brandi Chastain’s soccer celebration 20 years ago, we can say it): a nursing sports bra.
“I wanted something that was comfortable, dropped down on both sides and was moisture wicking,” she said. “When I couldn’t find what I was looking for I decided to create it. That’s when the active wear line was launched.”
What began as an idea just three years ago was established as a woman-owned business a year and a half later – and that includes the time it took Berens to meet with, roughly, five designers and almost the same number of manufacturers to get a prototype made.
“No one’s ever made something like this,” she said. “It was very complicated.”
The South Dakota native, a former singer, music industry and corporate career woman, had never stepped foot in the fashion industry. And while her accomplishment is impressive, she hopes that what she’s created can play a part in making life easier for women in the childbirth experience.
“For nine months a pregnant woman is filled with excitement and anticipation of the joy of mothering, yet an excess amount of hormone is also pumping into her system to nurture the life that is inside of her,” said Karen L. Lee, LMFT-LPCC, a Santa Clarita therapist who specializes in postpartum depression. “A postpartum woman is often filled with mixed emotions of love, fear and exhaustion. The body is confused due to the hormonal changes; the mind is scattered due to the lack of rest and sleep. The need of a newborn is sweet, yet overwhelming.”
Exactly. I’ve done it four times and it’s the best of times, but some of the most challenging – and the combination of function and comfort is a big win, as new moms have heavy responsibilities and are typically uncomfortable at the same time.
What the Love and Fit clothing line includes is leggings (pre, post and “pre2post”), nursing hoodies, sports bras, and beginning this summer, nursing T-shirts and tank tops.
While Berens’ collection is designed for use in and out of the gym, she hopes it will be that spark to get new moms moving again.
“It’s about feeling energized,” she said. “There were definitely days where I said, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ You don’t have to go to the gym; you don’t have to lift weights. The first few months I was working out in the backyard. Pushing a stroller uphill, doing a YouTube video for 20 minutes. You don’t have to get intense to work out.”
Ideally, a woman has a fitness routine throughout her pregnancy, in accordance with doctor’s orders, says Rachel Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Newhall.
“Staying active throughout your pregnancy will ensure an easier pregnancy and in postpartum it will be easier to get back into your routine as soon as possible,” she said. “Include strength exercises along with moderate cardio — always follow your doctor’s orders.”
Cosgrove also cautions expectant mothers.
“Be careful of elevating your body temperature too much in later stages and do not do exercises lying on your back after the first trimester,” she said. “If you aren’t already exercising when you become pregnant, be careful starting something brand new that you have never done before. Your body is already undergoing a lot of changes.”
Whatever a new mom’s experience, it’s nice to be supported – in more than just the obvious way. And it’s nice to be inspired by the ingenuity of a local mompreneur whose thoughts were: “I’m just a mom wanting to work out and I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of moms who want it, too.”
The secret of Berens’ success can be found in the spirit of her podcast, called, “Time to Be You,” where she interviews people who share personal stories about fulfilling your goals. Topics include finances, marketing, inner dialog and perfectionism, among others.
“A lot of people have great ideas, but actually having the drive and putting in the work is what takes it to another level,” she said.
Love and Fit is proof that women of childbearing age have distinct needs … and they also have a lot of the best ideas. The maternal instinct found in nature can see that – because even sitting on a nest should be comfortable.
Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.