When Nikita Stanley first learned she was pregnant, the news came as a bit of shock.
“We were travelling a ton and we were having a good time and then all of sudden this news of an impending baby came and it totally threw us for a bit of a loop. Me especially,” says Stanley, who describes her common-law partner as the more level-headed and pragmatic of the two of them, especially in that big-news moment.
“I was 25 when I found out I was pregnant and most people tend to have kids in their 30s now. So, I was like, ‘I’m so irresponsible; I can’t believe this has happened to me.’ I think I was harder on myself than I probably needed to be.”
Pregnancy can be a lonely time if everyone around you is nowhere near that stage of life and doesn’t really need to think beyond their plans for their weekend, or perhaps their next vacation.
But just a few weeks later, Stanley found out that her friend, Aleksandra Jassem, was also pregnant. That started both a shared journey into parenthood, and a creative partnership that led to their popular blog The Rebel Mama, and now a book called The Rebel Mama’s Handbook for (Cool) Moms.
Although Jassem was 33 when she got pregnant and says she was “a little bit more prepared” for the news than Stanley, it still “sort of threw us for a loop, because we had to become responsible and start adulting pretty fast.”
“But once I knew Nikita was pregnant, I was like, alright, we’re just gonna suffer together; we’re gonna get through this.”
Stanley had been blogging a little to keep up the writing skills she’d established while getting a degree in English Literature, and when her son Beau arrived, she started writing about new motherhood in a light and entertaining way. “Those were the posts that were getting shared,” says Stanley.
“It was through that time I would always be on the phone with Aleks, I would be like ‘Oh my God, cluster feeding is such bullsh*t. Should I write about it?’ All the ideas for the mom posts stemmed from conversations that we would have that started with, ‘How come nobody tells you how bad XYZ is?’ or, ‘How come no one talks about this?’ ”
Later, Jassem joined Stanley as a partner on the blog, bringing her more visual approach to storytelling. Then they started a small Facebook group where they could share experiences with other moms, a community that’s since grown to around 4,000.
They now describe The Rebel Mama as “the unofficial voice of mommy group dropouts.”
Because even if you don’t want to find your post-baby social life in a community-centre song circle, you still need to find your people.
“First you’re terrified of labour, then you don’t know how to breastfeed, then you don’t know why your baby’s not sleeping, then you don’t know how to get it started on solids. It’s always something,” says Jassem.
But since the parenting books that were out there weren’t resonating with them, they started talking about writing one of their own. And they took an unconventional approach to getting that project off the ground.
“We decided, OK, if we’re going to pull this off, we need to at least be able to pay for child care,” says Stanley.
So on April 2, 2017, they launched a Kickstarter campaign, looking for $25,000 to cover child care for three kids (Stanley and her partner had since had a second son) long enough to get the book written.
Stanley describes the month of the campaign as “a constant state of wanting to puke for the whole 30 days.”
“With Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal, you get nothing,” explains Jassem.
Even if you come close to it, you don’t get that. It just goes back to zero. So we were like, ‘Oh my god, we set it too high. This is never going to happen.’ It was very stressful.”
But by the end of the campaign, their community had come through and their funding goal was met. The book was released on Amazon 365 days later.
The tone is established in the intro, entitled, “Sorry for what I said when I was a childless asshole.”
Chapters cover pregnancy, the postpartum period, life with a baby, raising a toddler and various aspects of holding onto your sanity at all of these stages. Throughout there’s a tone that’s both raw and encouraging, one that leaves room for moms to hold on to who they are:
“You’re a unique woman, with ideas and plans and goals, and you don’t have to abandon any of them just because you’ve got a permanent plus one.”
Brandie Weikle writes about parenting issues and is the host of The New Family Podcast and editor of thenewfamily.com. Follow her on Twitter: @bweikle
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