InStyle’s Laurel Pantin On Birth Plans & Breastfeeding Plus, Pregnancy Meat Cravings As A Vegetarian
With endless stories as a new mom, Fashion Feature’s Director Laurel more than lives up to her charm. Cool as can be (facts are facts) this fashionable (obvi) and quick-witted mama is prepping for baby number two. Here, she shares what she’s learned about motherhood (hello, letting go!), from her shift in attitude toward birth plans & breastfeeding to finding an unexpected (and powerful) Instagram mom-community, and pregnancy meat cravings as a vegetarian. Plus, her bump-style tips, of course! @laurelpantin
Current state of mind?
Overall, I feel pretty good but I’m definitely ready to be done being pregnant. With my first pregnancy, I was super anxious—less about the actual birth and more about how I was going to adjust my life to take care of a baby. Pre-kids, I had every freedom in the world— if I wanted coconut water at 4 AM, I could run out and get one. But then having a newborn threw me for a loop! I felt kind of trapped at home, and like I couldn’t go anywhere. This time, however, feels different since I know more or less what to expect. Plus, I already don’t have much of a social life, ha,, so I’m not giving anything up. Mostly I’m nervous about introducing a new baby into my son’s life.
Difference between pregnancies?
Ellis was breech for most of my second and third trimester, which I found unbelievably uncomfortable. This time, thankfully, the baby’s not, so I feel so much better. Instead, I had some nausea coupled with migraines during my first trimester and other weird symptoms, full-body itchy. Plus, I have terrible insomnia, which is the cruelest joke ever, considering I have the time to sleep right now, and can’t.
I’d say “carby.” In the beginning, all I wanted was breakfast cereal. Be it Fiber One or Cinnamon Toast Crunch; it didn’t matter, so long as it was cold and crunchy. Now, in my third trimester, it’s mostly croissants. I eat at least one every day. With Ellis, I wanted pineapple and bacon — I’m a vegetarian when I’m not pregnant, so that was unexpected!
My philosophy around eating while pregnant has been if I’m craving a whole food, likely my body needs whatever nutrient that ingredient offers, even if it is meat. Chances are if I’m craving steak, then I need iron. On the other hand, if I want Fudgesicles, it’s not because my body is lacking in fudge. At best, I’m trying to keep the junk food cravings to a minimum (besides croissants) and otherwise not be too restrictive, but also not give in to everything..
That’s wild! How long have you been a vegetarian?
About two or three years now. Occasionally I eat fish, but mostly veggie. Ironically, I grew up in Texas, literally snacking on meat. I’d come home from boarding school or college, and my mom would say she had “whipped up a little steak snack,” and there would be an entire steak sliced up in the fridge! Even now, anytime I’m home, I have to remind my mom I’m a vegetarian. Occasionally she offers to make me a little spinach, but cooked in duck fat.
Path to pregnancy?
I consider myself extremely lucky. Ellis was a bit of a surprise. We had just started to consider having a baby and before we even made it to the “trying” part, I was pregnant! I was never a baby person and terrified to get pregnant. Everything happens for a reason; otherwise, I would have spiraled really hard about actually saying “Ok, I’m ready, let’s do this.”. With the second, some of the fear had dissipated, and I knew I wanted them to be two years apart. Once we decided to go for it again, I got pregnant quickly. I feel very fortunate.
Will you take maternity leave?
My first go-around, I was working at Coveteur. While out on maternity leave, I decided not to go back and started freelancing. But trying to balance new clients with a newborn and limited childcare was unsustainable. When this opportunity with InStyle came along, it was absolutely the perfect fit. It’s truly the loveliest place to work with the loveliest people, and I love what I do.. As for maternity leave, they’re very generous, and I plan to take as much time as I can to recover.
Do you have a birth plan?
With Ellis, I went in for a blood test before I was scheduled to have an external version (where they try and flip the baby) at 37 weeks. Through this weird series of coincidences, I went to the hospital rather than the lab to get my blood work done. When I went in, they put me in triage and strapped me to the monitor, standard procedure. The monitor went crazy, and it turned out I was having contractions but couldn’t feel them. Unbeknownst to me, I was in full-on labor! So, they hurried me into the operating room, and I had this INSANE rush C-section. What I thought would be a routine test turned into surgery, which was not the plan. I was completely unprepared. I had nothing with me, aside from the most ridiculous tiny bag, a chapstick, and no wallet.
This time, she’s not breech (thankfully), and I’m hoping for a VBAC. But, as they say, the best-laid plans, sowho knows. Ideally, with a toddler at home, I’d love to avoid surgery. The thought of not being able to pick up my son for so long afterward or keep up with regular family life is unsettling, but if I need a C-section, it will be fine. I’m trying to not be too attached to any plan.
Do you plan to breastfeed?
Last time, I had terrible postpartum anxiety that I think was triggered by breastfeeding. I gave it my all 24 hours a day for four months, but it wasn’t working. I worked with two lactation consultants, and a craniosacral therapist—I did everything I could think of or Google. For the life of me, I couldn’t get him to latch and was pumping around the clock; it was a total mess, and I wasn’t sleeping at all because I felt like I had to basically always be pumping. After four months, I was ready to give up and as a last-ditch effort, I decided to give it one more shot. I’m not sure what changed, maybe I was more relaxed, but it finally worked. From then on, I breastfed for ten months.
Having gone through this, I plan to try and be more gracious with myself and better manage my expectations and perfectionism. While I hope she takes to it, I’m just going to do my best, knowing that if it doesn’t work it, doesn’t work, and it’s not because I failed. Some things simply don’t work out.
In every other area of my life, other than motherhood, I’m used to working really, really hard at something and having it turn out the way I want.. But with childbirth and child-rearing, no matter the effort, it doesn’t always work out, which is crushing. It’s been a valuable life lesson for me.
Pregnancy style tips?
During my first pregnancy, I was way more into getting dressed; I would put on something cute and take selfies, and I was super into it. Since then, my style has become much more minimal, and I don’t have the patience or the desire to put together elaborate outfits. I have been very into comfort these days from big yummy cashmere sweaters to wearing my husband’s jeans, which at this point I can only keep on by tying a robe belt through the loops They’re literally hanging on by a thread..
I do, however, really see the value in treating yourself, especially when you don’t feel great. If I need a little splurge, I go for something like a pair of shoes, bag, or jewelry because it will always fit.
For starters, either lean on the community of women around you or find your people. While social media can have negative aspects, it had a lot of positive ones for me. I found there was this huge group of women on Instagram who I didn’t know personally, but were going through the same things I was. I’d post a question or something on my Stories and get these amazing responses from strangers.. I also reconnected to a few women I knew peripherally. They went above and beyond to check in with me when I was having a tough time. I felt very alone in terms of my close friend circle in the city since I was the first to have a baby, or my friend’s kids were much older. But having that outlet helped me feel a whole lot less isolated.
Plus, get as much help as you can (whatever that means to you), and don’t be afraid to ask for it. It’s super important to take time for yourself. The truth is, the only way you can fuck it up for your kids, especially in the very beginning, is if you’re not taking care of yourself and can’t be present for them. Sacrifice and suffering don’t make you a better parent.
I also went to the Motherhood Center for therapy — which is an excellent resource for NYC moms. They have great counselors. They helped me see that I was, in fact, the only one that cared whether my kid breastfed or not. Ellis didn’t care, neither did my husband, or my parents, no one cared but me, and it was driving me crazy. They told me the only damage I could do to my baby was to be mentally unhealthy, which mattered far more than breastfeeding. Keeping that in mind was a huge relief.