Director, of Wine Special Projects of Momofuku and Founder Of Ramona, Jordan Salcito On Chemical Pregnancies, Entrepreneurship & Maternity Leave
Director, Wine Special Projects of Momofuku and boss mama founder of Ramona (an organic Italian wine spritz named after her little sister’s alter ego), Jordan Salcito is insightful and charismatic.
Smitten by the sommelier, we chatted about her pregnancy challenges the second time around (after accidentally getting pregnant with her first). Plus a year of chemical pregnancies, losing a twin, cutting toxins, healing acupuncture, and launching a wine company while on maternity leave. @drinkramona
Current state of mind?
Feeling great all around, now that its only one baby.
Wait, what? One baby?
Yes, when we finally got pregnant with our second, we were initially having twins. At our five-week doctor’s appointment, the doctor saw two amniotic sacks and thought it could be twins. While this was a shock to hear, it was also not surprising since my dad is a twin, and so is my mother-in-law.
However, knowing that 40% of twin pregnancies become a single, our doctor cautioned not to get too attached. When we went back at seven weeks, there was only one heartbeat and one sack.
Oh wow! So, has this pregnancy felt very different from the first?
It some ways, yes. In other ways, no. When we thought it was twins, I was terrified, but my husband was even more so considering he’d been tentative about having another kid altogether, let alone two!
Also, when there were two babies, I was ravenous and felt very weak. I would devour an entire Diablo pizza at my husband’s restaurant, Pasquale Jones around midnight and still wake up hungry.
When we lost one of the babies, it was somewhat of a relief for my husband but left me feeling sad. Initially, I had been scared about having twins but then spent two weeks getting excited. When we received the news that we were having one, I was disappointed and mourned quietly. I was coming off this period of feeling frustrated with my body for not getting pregnant; then I had to process why my body would lose one of the babies in addition to that. It was an emotional time all around.
What was it like to get pregnant the first time?
Once we finally decided to have a baby, we got pregnant instantly and almost accidentally. At the time, I was in the middle of my sommelier exams and had just opened KO (David Chang’s Momofuku two Michelin star restaurant). I wasn’t ready to actually have a baby! The moment I got pregnant was this period of intense focus, rigidity, and stress. In the end, it turned out to be such a gift. Aside from the obvious of having Henry in our life, it gave me a time to reflect on my work and ultimately the reason I started Ramona.
And with this pregnancy?
I grew up with two sisters whom I adore and can’t imagine life without them. Therefore I wanted to give Henry a sibling. However, it took us a while to agree on this. Once we did, I naively thought it would happen as fast as it did with our first, but after several chemical pregnancies, I became disheartened and discouraged. I began to question WHY this was happening and the lifestyle choices I was making. In so many ways, I took my first pregnancy for granted and didn’t have the same reverence for fertility that I have now.
I did a deep dive into my body; I had blood work done and discovered I had a small hypo-thyroid condition which was affecting my energy levels. I’ve since corrected this but its incredibly common in women. This condition comes from the toxins we’re exposed to in our environment (especially here in NYC), everything from the air pollution to the food we eat. Sadly, in the US, our food is ladened with chemicals, and we have to be careful. One of the most prevalent and nefarious right now is Glyphosate (also found in Round-Up and known to cause cancer plus infertility). It started as a variant to Agent Orange leftover from the Vietnam War, is water-soluble and designed to kill microbes — it’s also all over our food and has infected our water system. With 80%of our immune system happening in our gut, it’s critical we eat well, as whatever we eat gets digested and spread throughout our body. Knowing this, I became maniacal about eating organic only, an ethos I’ve built Ramona on since day one.
I also discovered a place called the Yinova Center founded by Jill Blakeaway, which specializes in women’s health and supports Eastern and Western medicine, through a friend that had two natural pregnancies after several IVF miscarriages. Plus, I started seeing acupuncturist Ann Brunn. She prescribed me a herb tincture, told me to start tracking my basal body temperature, and had me pause on traveling for a month (because it’s such an assault on our system). After a year of failed attempts before going to Yinova and seeing Ann Brunn, I got pregnant with their treatments that month.
What are you eating these days?
I do my absolute best to eat healthily. I cut out caffeine, wheat, and dairy for a while and only recently started to reintroduce these items back into my diet in a particular way. For dairy, I only have grass-fed organic milk from Lancaster Co-op, and, if I’m going to have ice cream, it’s snobby ice cream. Plus, for baked goods, I prefer to make my own, so I know the origin of the wheat. I only have flour and honey, imported from Italy (or from Isis Biodynamic) as Italians banned Glyphosates in 2016.
Did you take maternity leave after your first?
For the first time in years, I took time for myself while nurturing my new baby. Just as I got pregnant, things were at an all-time high with work. Then we moved into our new apartment the day I went into labor, and virtually everything in my life changed. Suddenly we were in a new house with a new baby and a new perspective on life.
Being in the restaurant industry gave me proper training in managing chaos. Therefore, having a baby and being on maternity leave felt like relative calm with a minimal amount of disorder. It became a time of intense creation and clarity. For a while, I had been ruminating on this idea of Ramona. I saw maternity leave as a time to explore creating the brand and take the necessary steps to move it forward without the pressure of running the restaurants. When my maternity leave ended, I went back to the restaurant group, but Ramona was in the works.
Say what? You started a company on maternity leave (because, wow!)?
There’s a poem that says when you become a mother, you discover a new room in your house. I love this sentiment as it’s not to say there’s a new room in your home, but rather that you see the world through new eyes. In my case, this was true.
Gradually Ramona started to take more time, and I began to reshape my role at Momofuku to Wine Director At Large. We raised money for Ramona and completed our first canning date in September of 2016. I accidentally ended up on the cover of Wine Spectator Magazine for their 40 Under 40 issue holding a prototype with pretend packaging! That moment forced us to launch the brand months before we had intended and the rest is history!
Will you be able to take maternity leave after the new baby?
Now that Ramona is off and running, I’m planning to hit pause for at least 30 days which is something that I didn’t do with the first. I bought the book The First 40 Days and plan to prioritize myself and our baby. I feel fortunate to have an incredible team in place, which will allow me to do so. Plus, November (when he’s due) to February is a bit of a quiet time for us because we’re typically considered a more “summer” beverage.
How do you feel about birth plans?
Henry was an emergency c-section. I had planned all the things, including having a natural hypnobirth. However, in the end, it all happened as it should, and he was born healthy. Now, going into this one, I’m much more flexible. We will try for a V-back, but it’s OK if it doesn’t work out. Unfortunately, there’s shaming in our culture around c-sections and medicated births, but there are many factors that go into birthing a baby safely.
So much of the literature I read during my third trimester with Henry said that if I didn’t have a natural birth than I would have a hard time bonding with my baby. I have found this to be profoundly untrue. After my c-section, they immediately handed him to me, and we had skin to skin contact. We are madly in love. I don’t think that Henry’s bond with us is any less intense.
And what about drinking wine while pregnant?
Ironically it’s not enjoyable to me right now, and I don’t crave it. I will have a few sips if it’s an exceptional bottle. Overall, my philosophy is that a little bit of wine from organically grown grapes and a known producer is better than a donut from Krispy Kreme. I’m much happier to have wine as an indulgence :).
Work at the US border?
Two nights ago, I was in Mexico making rice and beans with Share Our Strength for 500 people waiting in Mexico to get a court date for asylum in the US. There was a father that had just traveled from Guatemala, with his two kids, one nine and the other four. The wife got into the US, and they were planning to join her. Their joy and commitment to make a better life for their children deeply moved me and is an excellent reminder of how fortunate we are.
Make room for what’s important to you. Being an entrepreneur with a new baby was difficult, but the truth is, there’s no good time. Having a baby creates a tremendous sense of hope, purpose, and focus…use those things in your favor to hone in on your priorities.