Nutritional Entrepreneur Ashly Yashchin on Motherhood and Starting a Business
At our last Talking Motherhood event, we met some of the most incredible #workingmoms in New York City. Among them was one of our panelists, Ashly Yashchin - who is not only a mother to a son (and currently pregnant), but also changing the food delivery world by creating meals specifically designed for women and mothers at Barley + Oats! We caught up with her quickly after the event and heard her motherhood story.
Tell us about your pregnancy. Where were you in your career?
When I got pregnant with my first, I was running e-commerce operations for a women's fashion lifestyle brand based out of LA and attending culinary school nights and weekends to obtain my health-supportive chef's training. I knew I wanted to eventually transition into a career in the health + wellness space with a focus on nutrition, but I wasn't sure when. Getting pregnant with my son, along with some other challenges of being a pregnant full-time mom in a corporate environment with no paid leave and little support, encouraged me to make that leap a little sooner.
What surprised you about being pregnant?
How grounding it was. For me pregnancy was the first time in my life where I really felt able to put some of the things that used to occupy my thoughts into perspective. One silly example is make-up. I used to never leave the house without make-up even to run to the supermarket and now I do it as often as I can. What some might see as a "busy mom letting herself go" is to me more of a display of confidence. Being pregnant made me realize that my purpose in life is so much greater than what I look like, I grew and birthed a child and am responsible for growing that little being into a confident and happy human whose values go beyond the superficial.
Can you share about your birthing experience?
Sure! As you can probably tell from the concept of Barley + Oats, I'm very into holistic medicine and wanted to have a natural birth (i.e. with no epidural). I hired a doula (although I probably should have spent more time finding one I was truly at ease with) and I labored at home until my water broke - at which point I actually thought that maybe I was going to die, haha. I'm sure any mamas who went a while without pain meds can attest to that feeling! The second we got the hospital and I learned that I still had at least an hour or so of dilation to go before pushing, I caved and got the epidural. And by caved, I mean I screamed for it. After two and a half hours of pushing I delivered a healthy, happy boy vaginally, delayed the cord clamping and put him immediately to my chest. We couldn't have been happier.
Now that I'm pregnant with my second, I'm leaving the lengthy birth plan at home, and going with what feels right for me and my body in the moment. One mantra we live by at B+O is that there is no one-size fits all model to motherhood or parenting. There are thousands of ways to be a good mom, to treat your body right and to live a healthy lifestyle. Birth is one of those times, where for me, I was grateful that we have the science and technology to pick and choose the healthcare plan that works best for us and that sometimes, both eastern and western ideas can work well in tandem.
What were some of the hardest things post-partum?
Food of course! At the onset of breastfeeding I was starving all the time, but I was nursing round the clock and, if my husband was at work and nobody was around, I was stuck to the bed for fear of breaking the baby's latch or waking him if I was lucky enough to get him to sleep. When I did get up, I was grabbing whatever was in the fridge and eating it cold, one handed. I needed a service like Barley + Oats for sure.
Some of the other toughies? Breastfeeding was not so easy at first. By week 4 my nipples were bleeding and in so much pain I would get teary eyed when Aesop (my son), would cry from hunger. It was actually my doula, who came over and showed us a miraculous new position (the reclining method) that fixed our problem. He was able to latch properly, the pain went away, and the remaining 8 months of breastfeeding were a breeze.
Where did you lean for support? Or was it lacking?
I've always (to my detriment) been slow to ask for help or support. So I would say I probably didn't lean too much in the postpartum either. I definitely asked my husband for help (of which he was great) and accepted relative's offers to bring food, do some cleaning or give me a nap or shower break whenever they were given.
How did you feel about your personal identity while pregnant and after giving birth?
I never felt more comfortable in my own skin. I felt like I had a higher purpose, and that my identity had evolved to include this new role. That said, after the postpartum period, when I was launching my business and my son was a bit older, I definitely had moments were I struggled with not being able to give what I used to be able to give to my career. This is something I certainly still struggle with today.
Did you always know you'd go back to work after baby?
No. In fact, the opposite. Despite always being very self-driven and hard-working, I had always wanted to stay home when my kids were little and go back to work when they began grade school. However, when I actually got pregnant, the thought terrified me and I believe, this came from my own insecurities about how I would be perceived by others or even, how I would perceive myself. I had always defined myself by my educational and career successes, what would I be without them?
Now that I have worked for a while with an infant and now working, with a 1-year old while also pregnant I don't have those same feelings. I 100% believe that being a "stay-at-home" mom is as important as being a working mom and that either choice deserves respect for yourself and respect from the community.
What was the transition like going back to work? Any advice for new moms?
It was hard. Being a woman in this country, I don't think that's going to change for a while. Especially as a breastfeeding mom, going back to work is difficult. Your body is telling you you should be with your baby every few hours (literally, leaking milk) reinforcing that guilt you already feel from being away. On top of that, you have to pump. Which I found zero fun in, especially since it was often on disgusting bathroom floors.
Do you have work-life balance?
I wish I could say I do but running my own company has made this a challenge. One thing I make sure to do is carve out several hours (without my cell) each night to spend with my son: feed him dinner, play with him, give him his bath and put him to sleep. Sometimes I wake up hours later because I too nodded off from exhaustion, but despite losing all that work time, it's worth it. If the business fails because I was there for my son, so be it, I'd rather that go neglected than him.
What does a brand like Mitera Collection mean to you? How do you feel in Mitera?
Mitera gets what it's like to be a modern women. It understands and reflects in its clothing the many hats you wear as a mom today. Besides being extremely comfortable, polished, fashionable and versatile, I enjoy wearing Mitera because I believe I'm supporting part of a movement to raise awareness about the challenges of motherhood and help create a society that supports working (and all) moms.