Meet Brandi Sellerz-Jackson.
Los Angeles based birth/postpartum doula. Creator of Not So Private Parts. Co-founder of Moms in Color. An overall creative. Married to husband, Jon Jackson. Mother of their three children, Jax (13), Jedi (4), and Jupiter (1). We sat down to hear Brandi’s authentic truth, her story, her advice, her love. We hope that this conversation either guides you before becoming a mom or inspires you as a mom to know that you aren’t alone. #MomToMom
Q: How do you find balance with everything you have going on?
I don’t know if there is a balance. I think there is a harmony that can happen. I think there are days for me where I can get everything done and pat myself on the back, and then there are days where I don’t get everything done, and I have to make decisions on what is more important. So, sometimes that looks like “Okay, I’m going to get some rest because tomorrow I really have a whole bunch to do,” or it might be a thing of “Okay I need to pick up the boys, then cook dinner, and then get this one piece out to a client.” It’s just harmony. There is a lot of deciding on what I need to do, what I like to do, and what is necessary and what is not. I am constantly having to make that decision, constantly.
Q: What does being a mom mean to you?
I think it has shifted throughout the years. I think with my oldest it meant something completely different. With Jax it meant keeping all of yourself pre-baby and nothing changing, that’s what it meant to me. By the time I had Jupiter, it meant something completely different. It meant holding onto yourself but also being okay with a good amount of it changing, and then embracing that new person, that emergence. With Jedi, it meant freedom, it meant being able to go with the flow, and he is so much like that, that’s who he is. He taught me that. Be able to shift, don’t hold onto stuff. If it aint working, move on.
Q: In those shift moments, is there a feeling you have? Do you feel a change in your body?
Before I had Jedi, I had worked in textiles for about four years, and I loved it and I had every intention to go back to work after maternity leave. But the day that I went there I knew something was different, and the moment I had him I knew something was different. And it wasn’t like “Oh I can’t leave my baby.” It wasn’t that. It was like there was something else out there that I was supposed to be doing. This feeling of… this isn’t where I'm supposed to be. It had been where I was supposed to be. I fought it and fought it and fought it. I would nurse my baby in the car in-between meetings and run from here to there and take him with me, and thought it would be just fine. But I just knew it – I knew it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. I fought it because who doesn’t like stability?
I waited until he was about 10 months, and two anxiety attacks later. I am for the most part pretty chill, but my litness test of when I am doing too much is anxiety. It had been years since that happened. I remember I had two panic attacks in one week. Heart racing, sweating, can’t catch your breath. I remember in that moment thinking, “Okay, I hear you body, you’re saying this is too much. You’re doing too much. This is not okay.” So I had a hard conversation with my boss. He offered so many great things to get me to stay, but I really had to stand in my truth and tell him… “I feel like we are going to have this same conversation 6 months later. It’s time for me to go.” And I left.
I felt this huge push into women’s work, and maybe because I was in it at the moment, working on the side on Not So Private Parts. I think a month or two after I left my job in textiles, I had my first event for black breastfeeding week, and it was packed, and I did it with a dear friend of mine - who is one of the co-founders of Moms In Color - Kelly McKnight, and it was just confirmation that I had made the right decision.
Q: Why did you start Not So Private Parts?
I launched Not So Private Parts - an online women's platform that is centered around wellness, health, and de-stigmatizing things we don't like to talk about - on January 1, 2016 because I had a miscarriage, and I felt like there needed to be a platform that was open to share. I started edging towards that on the side, but I just knew that I was being pulled into it being more than just my passion, but my profession. This is my work. This is what I do when I wake up. It was a hard decision, but at the same time it was so funny because the moment I had that conversation with my boss, I felt so much more at peace. Even though we went from two incomes to one, I felt way more at peace with that than I did staying in it.
Q: Can you tell your miscarriage story?
I had two miscarriages. Both of them were in-between my younger kids. So one right before Jedi, one right before Jupiter. It’s so weird, I just never even considered having a miscarriage. We miscarried at 6 or 8 weeks, so it was early… and it was heartbreaking. It was a lot. Same thing with Jupiter. I remember I had a miscarriage again around 6 or 8 weeks, and it was crazy because they were both around the same time.
The first one I woke up on 4th of July and was bleeding. That one was a drawn out situation. I started bleeding, and I remember the doctor wasn’t open. I think we went to the ER and the doctor said my body was deciding if I was viable for this pregnancy or not and that I just had to wait until my body decided. It was three weeks of my body deciding. I didn’t go anywhere. They told me just to rest, to stay in bed. It was grueling, and intense, and bloody, and it was a lot. It feels like you’re in labor when you’re having a miscarriage. It really does. I remember cramping, because before then I wasn’t cramping, I was just bleeding. It was horrible. It was to the point where we would go to the doctor, and they’d be like, the baby is still there, the baby's heart is still beating, and I was just bleeding. Eventually I ended up miscarrying, and that was that.
The miscarriage before Jupiter, was different. I had just taken Jedi out for a walk, came back, and I was bleeding. And I remember just being heartbroken again. This time, though, I did something completely different. I remember being in bed and telling my body, telling my baby, “I really want you to stay, but if you have to go, it’s okay.” And I remember thinking I didn’t want to do this thing that I did before, where I am pleading with this baby that I don’t know for 3 weeks, and they are holding on and I am holding on. I didn’t want to do that again. It was hell. I remember just being in tears, and being heartbroken but knowing that I am not controlling anything. I had done that before. I had tried that before, but I lost. After I talked to my body, to my baby, I think I passed the baby either that day or the next. My midwife came by and fixed us a wonderful meal and sure enough, I did an ultrasound and the baby was gone. A month later we were pregnant with Jupiter. It was so fast to the point where I was literally in denial. I think March came, waited on my period, nothing, a week later, nothing and I thought surely I am not pregnant, because I just miscarried almost a month ago. But it was real, I peed on a stick, and it was real. I think I learned for the first time that I am not controlling anything, and pregnancy teaches you that. I surrendered. Letting go for me was hard, but it was the most freeing thing ever. I had to really let go of that, you know and I think that’s why we were pregnant with Jupiter a month later.
Q: What was the process like dealing with that? Did you feel alone, what made you feel supported?
I think for me what helped was leaning into the fact that I don’t control anything. And there is always a risk. I mean there are women, and I hate to say it, but they are 37 weeks and they lose their babies. At 9 months, you can go all the way there, to literally give birth to a stillborn. That shows you right there that you are not controlling anything. So this myth of... "I won’t tell everyone until we are 13 weeks." What are you controlling by doing that? Nothing. You aren’t controlling anything by doing that. And I think that’s the thing that birth has taught me. It’s scary as hell. For those of us who like control, and it makes us feel safe, it’s scary. I need that. I get it. But at the same time, you’re not controlling anything, so you might as well enjoy it, and lean into it. Around 6 weeks with Jupiter, I was feeling so much anxiety around “What if it happens again?” And my mentor, who I love, she said, "I need you to lean into that fear. Acknowledge it. Acknowledge that it’s not made up, it’s not fictitious, that it’s valid. It's a valid fear. You experienced it. It’s real." The more that I did that, I was able to know it’s going to be okay. But I am not controlling anything. I had a song that I loved, so whenever I would feel fear I would acknowledge it, and then I would listen to the song. It’s by this band called King, and it’s called “Hey”. I would listen to it with Jupiter and Jedi anytime I would feel fear. I would listen to it on repeat, and it would remind me that it’s going to be okay. And it’s so funny - now I hate that album, and Jupiter loves it. Like absolutely loves it.
Q: What have you experienced and learned in the 6 week postpartum stage? And how can we help women?
A lot of people, I feel like underestimate that postpartum situation. A lot of people call it “the Cinderella,” where you are treated like a princess and a queen during your pregnancy and then when you hit postpartum it's like… annnnd there’s the pumpkin. Your shoes are janky, no glass slippers. You haven’t had a shower in days. You are just not at the ball.
The way people can support around postpartum is check in on your friends. But don’t check in like “do you need anything,” cause they won’t tell you. The best thing you can do is send over a postmates gift card. Just do things. A lot of times, they don’t even know what they need. Just say “Hey I am bringing over a casserole, enjoy. I left it at your door, I’m not coming in.” If they feel like there’s company, they feel like they have to be on. I had a friend, a good friend of mine, Nicole Sessions, where there would literally be multiple times where she would come by, and she would cook for me and the boys. It was just great. I have another friend named Aishat, I call her the womb whisperer. She would come over, and she has kids of her own, and she would be like “Hey I’m coming over. I hear you’re having a hard day. You’re going to nap. I’ll watch the boys.” I think that’s the thing. I think just doing things for people. Don’t ask them. You need to eat. Those are fundamentals. That support is needed. It’s so important.
Q: Any final words or advice, or a story or anything you want to share?
Being vulnerable, being transparent, sharing has always been freeing for me. And I think that the more that we do that, the more that we share, the more that we are vulnerable, the more that we are able to crack ourselves open a bit - the better off we all are. Because I guarantee, you are not the only person that has dealt with x,y,z. It’s someone else. And they need you to share so that they can see the light, and know that they are okay.