Foodie Founder Of Westbourne, Camilla Marcus On Fertility, Freezing Her Eggs, & Predicting The Sex
Soulful, brilliant, and warm, Camilla, the founder of Westbourne (one of our fave NYC eateries), is a total powerhouse and all about thinking ahead.
Here, she shares her decision to freeze her eggs and embryos years ago, why she gives mad credit to her acupuncturist for the baby currently holding space in her body, predicting the sex, and finding out she’s pregnant on Valentine’s Day. @camillamarcus @westbournne
Current state of mind?
Approaching 31 weeks and feeling good.
What was your path to pregnancy?
Interestingly, I froze my eggs and embryos when I was 30. At the time, very close friends of ours wanted to have kids and, after much heartache, they weren’t able to get pregnant. Through tests and procedures, they realized he was infertile, which got Josh and I thinking about our fertility future. Sadly, in our society, we don’t talk about fertility until it’s too late. In the case of our friends, he wasn’t infertile overnight, something was going on way earlier. Often we only start the conversation once we want kids! For women, we begin seeing an OB in our teenage years and never discuss fertility. Imagine if we were able to get ahead of it by testing our blood and getting sonograms early on to understand where we’re starting from. Also, potentially giving us options for the future. What if we could have our 18-year-old eggs in our 30-something-year-old bodies — wow!
Based on our friends’ experience, I had us test our fertility to avoid being blindsided. Josh and I have been married for ten years & together for fifteen, therefore, while we weren’t ready to have kids (this was four years ago) we knew we wanted them in the future. After getting our workups, (thankfully all was healthy) I suggested freezing our eggs and embryos as an insurance policy. Considering they were good at that time I figured why not preserve them knowing that fertility declines or something could happen to one of us — there are so many variables. When starting fertility treatments later in life, IVF can be stressful with diminishing returns, which I wanted to avoid. I feel grateful we were able go through the process as it was an immense luxury and gave us some room to wait. At the very least, I hope early fertility conversations will begin to normalize as time goes on.
So, what happened when you were finally ready?
Once we were ready to have kids, we decided to try the good-old-fashioned-way for a few months before exploring tapping into our egg bank. After five months of trying and still nothing, I began seeing acupuncturist Dr. Ming (she’s also an MD) through a referral. Being from California, I believe in eastern and western philosophies coming together. If you think about it, five-months of “trying” is only ten days in total! However, the waiting in between can be excruciating and it’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves. I committed to giving Dr. Ming’s methods my all for a month, if unsuccessful, we would finish the IVF process with our fertilized eggs.
To begin, Dr. Ming explained that ovulation sticks don’t work for everyone, so she had us doing the Basal Temperature method — wherein every morning before I got out of bed, we took my “resting” temperature. The balance of her program included following a special diet, seeing her once a week, and not traveling (which was so hard). As a safeguard, we scheduled the IVF implementation process for the Saturday after Valentine’s Day. However, on V-day, I was feeling great, and when I ovulate, I do not feel great. That night we were sitting at dinner, and I said to Josh I might be pregnant because I had so much energy. After dinner, Josh took the dogs for a walk while I took a pregnancy test, and sure enough, I was pregnant! Hands down, the best Valentine’s surprise ever! Especially considering it was two days before going in for IVF. After that experience, all I can say is a month with our acupuncturist was highly successful. Plus, we still have our eggs on ice if we need them in the future.
What diet did your acupuncturist have you follow?
I refer people to Dr. Ming all the time. As far as I’m concerned, she’s a magician. Her entire process is set up to support ovulation and prepare your body to drop the strongest, healthiest egg. Each phase is unique and requires different things. It’s not a one-size-fits-all diet. Throughout the process, based on where I was in my cycle she would suggest focusing on fish one week, red meat the next, or a specific vegetable. She also guided me through the first few weeks of pregnancy (a typically highest risk time) with certain foods and tips.
Boy or girl?
This may sound a bit weird, but my husband always says I’m a good witch. The second I peed on the stick I told Josh we were having a boy. He, of course, questioned how I knew and I told him I just did. Low and behold, we’re having a boy!
How has pregnancy been for you?
Overall I’ve been super fortunate. First off, we found out mid-February that I was pregnant, but my family and had planned a trip to New Zealand for a dear friend’s wedding in March. I called my OB and asked her if it was OK to get on a 16-hour flight at seven weeks pregnant. She didn’t advise that we go but also said there was no medical evidence proving that a plane would cause a miscarriage.
In the end, we decided to go, and the trip was beautiful. In the early days when I was feeling least like myself, it was great to be distracted by the trip. While I recognize it was a gamble to travel, I’m glad I did it. He’ll have been to eight countries before he’s born — wish I could get double the miles 🙂 When we got back from NZ, not only was I okay, but my OB told me he was growing like a weed!
And have you been sick at all?
Not really. The first couple of weeks, I felt like I was on a boat — nothing crazy or debilitating but rather a general noise or background interference.
Any weird cravings or aversions?
Interestingly, no. It’s odd. For the most part it’s been business as usual since the beginning. The one call out is that I’m the hangry version of thirsty — not sure if we’ve coined a word for that, but I have to have a water with me at all times. Out of nowhere, it will hit me like a ton of bricks, and I feel as though I will go insane if don’t have water immediately! Funny enough, I’m not a big water drinker in my “real life.” Even though I know it’s healthy for you, I usually have to force/remind myself to drink water.
Also, I’ve been taking the European approach to eating (and drinking). My doctor is more laid back and says everything is okay to eat and drink except raw meat. I’ve not adhered to the typical “do not eat” list and I have been drinking wine. I also work in the food industry and do our buy for wine and ingredients. It’s about balance for me.
And have you been working out?
I’m not a big “worker-outer.” Wish I was, but I’m not. Early on my dad had said that pregnancy is the most extreme (and the longest) sport that exists, which makes sense! Therefore, I’ve viewed being pregnant as though I’m an athlete preparing for a marathon. I work out 3-4 days a week with a trainer and do pilates (all strength training), which I’ve never done in my life. I’m going through this massive physical transformation and that ends in the Olympics.
Running the business while pregnant?
I find it amazing, but when it comes to business, as a society, we don’t question when men are becoming dads, and instead, they become superheroes. Women, however, are treated differently in business. People have questioned my commitment to my work and it’s cast a lot of doubt. I’ve had people ask me if my husband was going to run my business! Uh, No. Or, they’ve asked me what I’m going to do with my business. Sorry, what do you mean? I’m just having a baby, not going anywhere!
I told my management team I was pregnant at about eight weeks and the full team when we got back from New Zealand. I took the approach of being more open about it, which is not the norm in my industry.
For the most part, I’m working like usual, probably twice as much actually. I enjoy being in the thick of it as it’s helped me feel supported, distracted, and like ” my normal self.”
How will you take maternity leave?
Working for yourself has its perks such as you can create your own schedule and shift things around when needed, which can be more challenging when you report to someone else. The flip side of that, I don’t have partners, and I’m self-funded. Ultimately everything falls back on me.
I feel several ways about taking leave. First off, I want to set a good example for my team that everyone can take parental leave, check out and care for themselves. With that said, there’s also no other me, and it is my business. I see it being a hybrid of the two and the reality of what is feasible.
Similar to how I run my life, in general, with enough structure to make sense but not too much to be disappointed, we’re still in the process of figuring out what it will look like. The first few months will probably be a bit more removed with me not leaving the house much, and then I will ease back into it from there. I’m fortunate to have a great team of leaders that support me in carrying the torch day to day and make this flexibility possible. It takes a village even before you have a baby. Ultimately, we have no idea what it’s going to be like as complications can arise and won’t know until we get there.
Do you have a birth plan?
The idea is to try for a natural hypno birth. Coming from LA, I have always wanted to go this route as this is much more the norm in California versus radical here in NYC. The stats show clear evidence of a more positive experience with less trauma and smooth deliveries. I wish all pregnant women would read The HypnoBirthing Book as I found it framed pregnancy and childbirth in such a positive and empowering light — opposite from what the standard hospital system makes you believe as a woman. Whether you want to go natural or not, the reframing is super eye-opening.
What’s been your experience having a doula?
Having a doula throughout my pregnancy has been such a gift. She’s our real patient advocate for understanding the system and the options available to us. Her role has been critical in the process, and I wish it were standard for everyone.
What’s your plan for the 4th Trimesters?
I’m very much east/west philosophies, both personally and professionally. I recently read The First 40 Days, a book based on eastern cultures like Korean and Chinese, wherein the post-birth focus is on taking care of the mom, equally if not more than the baby. It’s the most traumatic experience both physically and emotionally that a woman can go through, the most beautiful too but also traumatic. The book highlights nurturing yourself through nurition. After all you can’t take care of an infant if you’re not feeling strong yourself.