Dana Wood is a mother to one little girl, wife, and the writer of "Momover," an online column that explores the collision of age and first-time mommyhood. Dana has served as the senior fashion features editor and beauty director of W and the health and beauty director of Cookie. In her twenty-plus years of journalism, she has also written for numerous national publications, including Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, Women's Health, Self, and People. She has recently written her first book based on her very popular column, "Momover: The New Mom's Guide to Getting It Back Together (Even if you didn't have it in the first place). Her wit, humor and honesty will make you laugh off your seat as she shares her personal experience of becoming a mother at the age of 43. Learn more about Dana and her popular blog at Momover.net. She lives in New York, NY.
Empowered Mommies (EM): Dana, you have such a fascinating background having worked as a beauty journalist for nearly 20 years and recently serving as Senior Fashion Features Editor for W Magazine. Can you share with us how you began your career and how you came to create your online column, “Momover” and ultimately, your book “Momover- The New Mom’s Guide to Getting it Back Together”?
Dana Wood (DW): Originally, I moved to New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology as a design major. But when I floundered in the sewing and draping classes (soooo intense!), I switched to communications. In my last semester, I interned at a magazine, loved it and stuck with it. (Although I did take a big "time-out" to work in strategic development in the luxury group of L'Oreal, which was also amazing.) I developed Momover as a monthly online column while I was the Health & Beauty Director at Cookie, a sadly defunct parenting magazine published by Conde Nast. I had recently delivered my wee lass and wanted to re-beautify, re-energize, re-everything. But I always thought it had "legs" as a book, especially since I wanted to really dive in to the more emotional aspects of having a baby, Happily, my agent and publisher agreed that there was more to say on this topic.
EM: You’ve been very open about your decision to have to postpone motherhood and equally open in discussing your struggle with infertility once you wanted to start having children. What is some advice you can give professional young women who may be considering delaying motherhood to focus on their careers? Do you wish you had done anything differently? Why or Why Not?
DW: I'd like to be very upfront about this, and be quite clear that this is strictly MY opinion, but yes I absolutely DO wish that I had had my daughter earlier. I take extremely good care of myself, but the reality of the situation is that, since I'm already 47, I'm probably only going to have 40 more years with her. Every mom knows that that is simply not enough time. I in no way want to discourage others from having a later-in-life baby, but I constantly urge every young woman around me to try to get the family ball rolling much earlier than I did. I didn't get married until I was 40, and I'm hoping my daughter sails down that aisle by about age 30 or so.
EM: I love how you organized the book into sections: Getting It Together Mentally, Physically, Emotionally & Spiritually. What part was the most challenging for you and did you feel the physical component was more salient because of the industry you work in?
DW: The most challenging part, by far, was "Mentally." I knew I had to package my own not-so-hot story in a way that would help other new moms without scaring the sweatpants off them! It was also tricky because I was, and still am, a little shell-shocked by my Labor/Delivery and my subsequent blood transfusion. Not to be too ghoulish, but there was a piece in the Wall Street Journal recently about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder attached to deliveries that go awry. Between the hormonal roller-coaster, the labor and the new-baby exhaustion, it's a lot to handle - especially for a newbie. I wanted to acknowledge that, and also provide ways to mitigate some of the stress and "Am I doing this right?" second-guessing that many new moms are prone to.
As for "Physically," the main take-away is that moms simply MUST make their own health a priority. Yes, looking great is fabulous; I won't deny that. But it's fabulous because it makes us feel self-confident and on top of our games, which has a positive trickle-across effect on every aspect of our lives. My message is never about, "Make sure you fit into your skinny jeans so you can make the other new moms jealous at the playground next week." It's more about, "You found time to get your mammogram last week? Yippee!"
EM: I'd like to hear a little more about your challenging Labor/Delivery and post-partum recovery. Do you think this affected your perceived view on childbirth as a whole?
DW: No, not at all. My decision not to have another child is simply a function of my age, not because of my upsetting experience around delivery. In other words, if I were younger, I would have at least two Diapered Darlings crawling across my carpet! But I will say this: I'm pretty sure that I suffered from low-grade postpartum depression that lingered for about 18 months. I didn't realize I had it until the "clouds" lifted. That's when I started taking a few nutritional supplements that obviously restored balance to my brain, body and overall sense of well-being. So I urge all new moms who aren't feeling quite "themselves" to get bloodwork done to determine if there are any underlying physical conditions they need to know about. Another thing to watch out for, especially for older first-time moms: Thyroid issues. Pregnancy can absolutely be a trigger for these. I had a lot of fatigue, and as it turns out, I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid after I had my daughter.
EM: You’re fortunate in that you were able to receive the support of a “village” as you refer to it in your book, like your baby nurse, full-time nanny, and personal trainer for example. Unfortunately, many moms can’t afford this network especially given the current economic climate. How do you recommend they seek out help if they’re in that situation?
DW: Aaah, but what my husband and I DON'T have is family to help! I sometimes wonder what it would be like to just drop the little lady off with Grandma for the day—I would really love that. Anyway, I would definitely recommend joining a new-mom support group, and then, within that, try to seek out a few mothers with whom you really click - and who live nearby - to create a babysitting-bartering alliance. Especially on the weekends, when you're not dropping the tots off at daycare. That way, each of the moms gets some very necessary 'me-time,' to read some fun chick-lit, give yourself a pedicure, take a walk — whatever restores and recharges you. As for the personal trainer, yes, they're motivating. But they're hardly necessary to getting in shape, especially with all the amazing postpartum fitness DVDs available now. Plus, almost everything I do regularly is very inexpensive: running outside, jumping rope, rebounding on a mini-trampoline, working out with light weights to my Joyce Vedral DVDs. I blog constantly about my fitness routine, and as I re-read those posts, it's clear that I really mix it up. And I haven't worked-out with a trainer in a few years now.
EM: If you had to look forward in time, how do you hope your online column and book will have helped and empowered new moms?
DW: There are three big habits and thought processes I'd love to instill in my Momover readers, whether they're into the book or the blog:
One, that they take ownership of their 360-degree wellness - mind, body and spirit - and realize that it's the SINGLE BEST thing they can do for their children.
Two, that they teach themselves to "Do what they're doing." Focus is the key to success in everything we tackle in life, so really commit yourself, whether it's to reading a book to your toddler or hitting the living room floor for ab work. When you're not distracted and secretly checking your BlackBerry for new emails, you'll feel like the best mom on the planet, and you'll also accomplish a lot more and have a renewed sense of calm. Multi-tasking is vastly overrated.
Three, set small goals for yourself. Rather than issuing a global, "I have to get in shape!", say, 'Today, I'll power-walk for 20 minutes and eat four servings of fruits and veggies.' You can easily do that. And when you do, you'll feel great.
EM: Thanks Dana for giving us your time. We really appreciate it!
DW: Thank you, Ivanna!