Cassie Shortsleeve is the founder of Dear Sunday, an online resource for a better pregnancy, postpartum and new motherhood experience. She is a veteran journalist and contributor to national publications such as Parents, Women’s Health, Shape, What to Expect, just to name a few! She is also an integrative health coach, and a mama of two. Dear Sunday was conceived just after the birth of her daughter, as she is passionate about changing the dialogue about pregnancy preparation and new motherhood. We asked Cassie to fill us in a little more, and here’s what she had to say…
Congratulations on the birth of your second baby, born on Super Bowl Sunday! How was the experience different this time – from pregnancy to birth to breastfeeding? Would you say you were better equipped the second time around?
Everything about my second pregnancy was easier, from the physical symptoms and emotional changes to the birth itself. I think that has a lot to do with both the experience of already being a mom (everything's easier the second time around, right?) but also the knowledge I've gained in studying maternal mental health. After the birth of my first daughter Sunday, I started my company, Dear Sunday Motherhood. My first pregnancy was really hard. Although I've been a health reporter for more than a decade reporting on all things mental and even maternal health, I personally struggled emotionally and physically with pregnancy. I found that the way society approached pregnancy (as all positive) wasn't my experience. Through studying maternal mental health, I learned that many women struggle in the transition to motherhood. The problem is, it's not always easy to find resources to help and to honor the wide array of feelings and emotions that can occur during the transition to motherhood. At Dear Sunday, we run virtual mom groups (we have new ones launching in May for anyone who's pregnant or a new mom!), webinars with experts in maternal health, and provide prenatal and postnatal coaching services. My goal is to prepare women for the transformative experience of motherhood and make room for all of the different emotions that can pop up. I like to say that Dear Sunday is the resource I wish I had while I was pregnant with Sunday; we provide the types of services and information that I hope will be more widely available to our daughters someday.
Tell us about your E-book! What sort of advice/information does it provide?
Dear Sunday's pregnancy e-book helps you navigate the tough parts of becoming a mother from pregnancy through new motherhood. With exclusive, evidence-based information and interviews with 19 top experts affiliated with prestigious institutions and major universities and hospitals, you’ll feel supported, informed, and better prepared for the stuff no one talks about. From trying to conceive through giving birth, our pregnancy e-book helps you navigate infertility, uncomfortable early pregnancy symptoms, confusing emotions, miscarriage, hemorrhoids, a changing social life, and so much more. You can get it here!
As a mama of two now, how have you found the transition from one to two in comparison from zero to one?
So much easier! Of course, there is an adjustment (and having a toddler while you're postpartum is challenging), but the transition from zero to one is truly life-changing. There's even a term for it. Matrescence is the term anthropologists use to describe a woman becoming a mother. It's a transformative period of hormonal, brain, social, physical, and emotional changes but unlike adolescence, we don't hear as much about it. Matrescence involves a major life shift. It's not that adding another baby to your family doesn't but I've personally found that once you're in it, certain things simply don't seem as new, shocking, or surprising.
Is there any breastfeeding advice that you heard that has always stuck with you?
An IBCLC I love told me once that babies are geniuses. I love that. Personally, I never knew if I was going to breastfeed (I wound up breastfeeding Sunday for 10 months and have not had any issues breastfeeding my second daughter Fiona as of now). I think the fact that I didn't have much stress around the experience (my mentality was always, if it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't) helped me in that I was relaxed in my approach. And if you think about babies as geniuses it only makes sense to think that, for the most part, they know what they're doing! That said, I'm also a big believer in doing what's best for mom — and if that means pumping or mixing or formula, then that's what's going to make for the healthiest family.
If you could share one nugget that you have learned through your personal birthing experiences, what would it be?
I think there's a lot of fear surrounding birth and I think, to some extent, that's normal. Birth is a massive physical, physiological, and emotional feat. Whether it's your first time or your sixth time, it can be scary! I always liked to remind myself that the birthing process is a natural one — bodies have been doing it for millennia. Trusting your body and its abilities really helped me. I also think it's important to be flexible. If you're someone who wants to make a birth plan, leave room for changes, surprises, and adjustments. There are some things you just can't control and when birth plans are rigid, I think you can set yourself up for disappointment. What I try to coach women on is the importance of looking past birth and planning for postpartum. I talk about this a lot on Dear Sunday's Instagram.
Quick! Can you give us 3 things that keep you sane on a daily basis in regards to motherhood?
Exercise, sleep, and help from others.
And lastly, what are your 3 favorite breastfeeding essentials? They can be an item of clothing, specific products or anything else you can’t live without while breastfeeding!
Nuun tablets (I love these for hydration — you just pop one in a water bottle for a dose of electrolytes); a big, oversized water bottle; the Haakaa.