Nina Pierson is a Dutch female serial entrepreneur with a focus on sustainability and motherhood. She published a bestselling book called Mama’en: self-care during pregnancy, birth and postpartum Dedicated to the mother’s wellbeing seen from a physical, spiritual, mental and science-based perspective all with one goal: to empower women becoming mothers. Nina is also the talk show host of the like named Podcast Mama’en where she interviews experts on the subject.
How are you feeling?
Tired! I’m in my last weeks of pregnancy (38 weeks as we speak). A third pregnancy is a whole different ball game. Luckily I have the most amazing babysitter for my girls a couple of days in the week (lifesaver) but still, it’s a lot more work than with a first and second pregnancy. Also, I have so many cool things going on work-wise that it’s difficult to take it easy and slow down, even though I know how extremely important it is before birth to take rest and go inwards during maternity leave and these last stages of pregnancy (even though I still feel good enough to keep doing things).
My plan is to take an Instagram vacation (for one or two months) starting next week, which will give me the opportunity to tune in and focus on myself and this beautiful little baby that’s going to be introduced to our world.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I love the days when I wake up a bit before my two girls. Lately, I stay in bed until they wake up and just take the time to think about random stuff or how my day is going to look. It sounds strange but having the time to think is a luxury these days. I also got the advice that connecting with your unborn child is easiest in the morning because your rational brain is still kind of on mute and it’s easier to tune into your intuition.
When the girls wake up we first cuddle up in bed together (favourite time of the day!) before we go downstairs in our pyjamas and make breakfast. They help me with our daily smoothies (pink banana beetroot is the current fave). Around 8:30 the babysitter comes and Ella starts school next week around 9:00. I try to do some yoga in the morning even if it’s just 15 minutes. I love to meditate with the app Expectful, especially for pregnancy! I’m also still doing some things for work. As an entrepreneur, I love what I do so it’s not that bad to dive behind the computer with a decaf oat milk latte. In between my to-dos, I drink babyccinos with my girls and eat a cinnamon bun (pregnancy craving!). I try to sleep for an hour after lunch and love watching guilty pleasure programs such as The Bachelorette, The Voice, and Temptation Island.
I also try and do some things in and around the house in preparation for birth and the baby room. Stuff is still standing around in boxes, but I’m not really stressing over it as I know how little a baby needs in the beginning.
As a mother, it’s important to take some time out for yourself. How would you recommend mothers, and women in general, do that?
It all begins with understanding how incredibly important it is to take time for yourself. The more arguments we have to do so, the easier it is to take action. Also knowing that taking care of yourself is a great way to take care of your children (I always think about the oxygen mask advice in airplanes to first put on your own). This insight makes it easier for me to make choices around self-care.
Second of all, I think it’s important to understand that we shouldn’t worry too much about how having no time for ourselves is a bad thing. It’s also healthy for me to finally, after 30 years (when I first became a mom), shift the focus from a me-centered world to an other-centered world. I think pushing the boundaries of what my ego longs for or wishes for, and setting it aside (on a daily basis, because motherhood is really about doing a lot of the things that you don’t want to in that moment) is an opportunity for growth.
The most important advice from the Dalai Lama about how to be content and happy is that you should take care of others. Motherhood is the perfect thing for that. We shouldn’t forget to enjoy it, even though times are challenging with little children.
The other day I asked my 95-year-old grandmother-in-law when she looked back at life, what was her happiest and most joyful time? She answered the moment her children were little. That being said, it’s all about balance. And choosing the right moments, communicating with your husband/partner/friends about what you need is so important. Asking for help, allowing yourself that massage, taking that bath, going out with friends even though you worked all day.
I think we also need to accept that ambivalence is a part of motherhood that every woman experiences. We will always easily have a feeling of guilt: should I do more for myself versus should I be there more for my children. Just accepting these feelings for what they are can be a huge part of experiencing less stress around taking more or less time for yourself. I must say that meditation and yoga are some of my absolute favourite things when it comes to self-care as they help me to create more resilience to deal with challenging times!
How has your third pregnancy been different from your first two?
I am as nauseous as with my first two pregnancies (talking about what I like least, it’s been the all-day sickness and as if I’ve had the worst hangover of my life for several weeks). But the biggest difference I must say is that, with this pregnancy, I’ve loved working!
I’ve had huge cravings to create and do stuff; so much confidence and energy compared to my first two where my instinctive reaction was to just stay inside and cocoon (even though that wasn’t always possible because of responsibilities). A big difference is that my two girls are very aware that they are having a baby brother or sister, and the kisses and cuddles on my belly are the sweetest things.
On the flip side, it’s HARD work being a mother of two and baking a third in the oven. , I love the fact that I already know so much about pregnancy and birth, which gives me a lot of confidence. You never know how this birth will go but my starting point is trust: trust in my body, the process, in life. Sometimes I’m afraid I didn’t take enough time to enjoy the ride, but maybe that’s also some sort of tension and doubt that arises just before you enter a new phase.
I’m thankful for all the energy and love and confidence this baby gave me during this pregnancy. I also believe that this soul chose our family because it loves the business. There’s always something happening and this baby was a little observer, and will probably be an observer once entering this world. We’ll see!
What advice do you have for expecting mothers right now?
In modern times, it seems almost expected that creating another human being is something we do “on the side”. It’s expected that our normal lives just go on as is, but HELLO, this is the most profound transformation, mentally and physically, in our lives. Let’s make time, room, and space for it. When and where we can. Self-care is a beautiful tool. I think pregnancy is an opportunity for personal growth. Long-tucked-away emotions rise to the surface (thank you shitload of hormones!) for us to grab. Even though we tend to experience stronger emotions during pregnancy, I think if we embrace them, we can use them as building blocks to become stronger.
I love the book by Dr. Alexandra Sacks, What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood. I think there is an important role for society as a whole to give better support for women in transition to motherhood. With the most recent evidence-based science, we now know that we can’t make a better investment in human life than in those first 1000 days (from conception to two years old). From a biological point of view, there is not a moment in life where we are more receptive to our environment than in those first 1000 days. And this environment that we’re in is, for a large amount, our mother. What she experiences, eats, and feels influences the child. So taking care of yourself, but also expecting your environment to do so, is a necessity and not a luxury.
There is this beautiful Ayurvedic saying that we should treat a pregnant woman as a bowl filled to the top with oil. The way we walk with the greatest caution is the way we should treat pregnant women.
When I talk about personal development during pregnancy, it’s not in a masculine way of having to do something, it’s more about a loving way of looking at oneself. I think that the way we love and care for our babies is a perfect example of how we should treat ourselves.
Another piece of advice that I have is to take birth seriously! Prepare, read, listen; look at birth in all its dimensions. There is so much information to take, but do it! The way you bring your baby into this world matters. Of course, a healthy baby and mother are very important but it’s not all that matters: your experience matters too.
There is a lot of fear in society right now around birth (even though it’s safer than ever to bring our babies to this world, especially in countries like England and the Netherlands), but we have seem to have forgotten how amazing our bodies work! There is a tendency to trust solely on the medical route and technology, but if you dive into the subject, you’ll understand how perfect birth is created and intended by mother nature. I really think that we should bring these worlds and let them work together to optimise birth and the way we birth. For example, most hospital rooms are literally stripped from everything that supports the hormonal processes that take place in a woman’s body when giving birth. How great would it be if we could create rooms that have the optimal conditions for women to give birth instead?
What is your favourite part of being pregnant?
When you stop for a moment and really think about what’s going on, it’s a miracle. That two single cells can grow out to be a complete human being in just nine months. (Did you know that a human never grows as fast as during the first 1000 days of life—from conception to 2 years old?) While pregnant, you carry two hearts at the same time. Your baby is completely safe and your body is doing its work.
For me, my pregnancies are moments in my life where I experience personal growth because I experience everything more intensely. It’s such a special short time in life. I compare it to the feeling you have just before opening a wrapped present. It’s that special feeling of wondering what this surprise is going to be that you’ve carried with you throughout your pregnancy (even more so now because we decided not to know the sex of our third child—it’s going to be a surprise at birth!). I also feel beautiful! Isn’t your body amazing that it can do all this? I love pregnant women with their curves and rounding; for me, the ultimate expression of feminism and sensuality!
What are your favourite skincare products to use during your pregnancy?
Oils, oils, oils! I’m in love with oils during pregnancy. Also because they tend to be more natural. Do you know what my #1 skincare product is during postpartum? Simple, cold-pressed, organic sesame oil from the supermarket. According to Ayurvedic traditions, it’s one of the best things you can do to support your recovery after giving birth. I warm up some oil and give myself a short five-minute massage (longer is also possible) with this sesame oil every day. Other skincare products I love using:
Body, linen & home spray by Kenko the scent is amazing and I co-created this with Kenko especially to use during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum (and their body oil for mother and baby is amazing too)
How would you describe motherhood?
For me, motherhood made me the woman I’m supposed to be. A kind of Nina 2.0. Also, my career took off once I became a mother (writing Mama’en the 440-page Dutch bestseller book on pregnancy, birth, and postpartum where the woman is the center of attention).
My children are the most important thing in my life, which doesn’t mean that I am with them 24/7. I am a working mom and, at the same time, a dedicated mom. I try and work a maximum of three-and-a-half or four days a week, and spend the rest with my babies. This is because I love what I do and know that I’m the best version of myself when I can be a working mom.
I take motherhood very seriously (my passion is reading books on parenthood—#1 is Philippa Perry’s book) and I really, really love it. At the same time, it’s challenging. It lays a big fat looking glass over your weakest sides. I think I do something every day that I think I could have done better (see: the perfectionist in me grows stronger due to motherhood..something to work on). More patience, more attention, more love. Is it ever enough?
At the same time, and here is what I think is the coolest part about motherhood because it’s the most important thing in my life, there is so much at stake and, therefore, so much to learn! The biggest challenges we face in life are often our biggest lessons to learn. Looking at it that way doesn’t make the struggles and challenges go away, but it makes it easier to ride these waves of motherhood. Then I can also feel thankful for my imperfections. Motherhood for me is about finding a balance and then losing it, and finding a new balance and losing it, and finding and losing, and so on. It’s an endless ride, which is the rainbow confetti in my life.
Tell us a bit about your Podcast and what inspires the conversations that go on?
Yes, my podcast with over 170,000 listens over 23 episodes! It’s truly amazing, and I never thought it would be such a success (the fourth season will start in August of this year).
The format is easy: I invite experts to the show to talk about a certain theme. One at a time. From the famous birth consultant Anna Verwaal (check out her TEDtalk) to a baby whisperer. Or a pre- and postnatal fitness expert to a lactation consultant. I interviewed the bestselling author, Millli Hill, which you can listen to in English here, and I also did an English interview with Ayurvedic expert Victoria Hyndman which you can listen to here.
There is so much knowledge and information available, and I believe that a key to empowerment as a woman in this life-changing transition is knowledge. It takes away fears, it helps you to choose what works for you, it makes you more aware. I think part of my success is that I’m never stating that a certain way is the best way. I’m just laying down facts and insights for women to do or not do something with.
The podcast is a result of my book Mama’en. I wanted to write something with the woman becoming a mother at the center of attention. From pregnancy to birth and postpartum, this book addresses almost everything you need to know from a spiritual, scientific, and everything-in-between perspective. It’s practical with yoga and fitness exercises and recipes.
I’m currently working on a new book! It’s a collection of 42 birth stories told by the women who experienced them, everything from a home bath birth to a planned Caesarean. The book shows that every birth is unique and that having a positive, empowering experience is possible, regardless of where you birth or if it’s natural or medicated. As long as you can do it your way. The book is inspired by the ancient women circles and communities where we used to share stores from woman to woman and pass our wisdom on to the next generation. This book is meant to encourage women who still have to bring their babies to this world, and to show them how amazing their bodies are and how strong they are! It will come out in October this year!
Do you believe in birth plans? And if so, can you share yours.
Oh yes, I do! Research shows that women who make birth plans have a bigger chance of having a positive birth experience. Birth plans are there so you can let go in the moment. Birth plans are there so people know what is important to you. Birth plans are there so you take the preparation for motherhood seriously. I mean, why train for a marathon for weeks and weeks with a trainer but then tell women that, for their births, it doesn’t matter because things will never go according to plan anyway?
Why is it that in every part of our lives we can have wishes and it’s accounted for that we know what we want, but when it comes to birth, we’re not allowed to have dreams and wishes? I think a birth plan is a perfect way to know what your best option is in every scenario (also when things don’t go according to plan). In that way, you can understand what is happening and also know where you have choices (and sometimes you don’t).
There is this amazing saying, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to see the difference”.
Working on a birth plan (and preparing for birth) gives you this wisdom. And of course, something can happen or has to happen not according to your plan but we are rational, grown-up women and we can understand that sometimes plans have to be changed. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t write the plan at all. The way women birth and, more importantly, the way we experience our birth matters! Because it’s an experience that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
It’s my personal and professional mission to try and contribute to the way women positively experience birth. Research shows that a positive and empowering birth experience isn’t about the exact process of how the birth went, but more about how the woman was treated and respected. It’s now about birthing a certain way (or about one birth being better than another), it’s about doing it your way. So never let anybody tell you that a birth plan isn’t a good idea.
My birth plan is short because it’s my third birth. I know what I want and don’t want. I’ll have a birth photographer around, my two daughters can be there too (they made me pinky promise to wake them up if the birth started at night!), and I’m planning on having a home birth (a safe and legitimate place to give birth here in the Netherlands). I want a bath, lights dimmed, and quiet music playing. My midwife is an experienced woman who told me she often sits in a corning knitting something (haha!), who has the vision to do as little as possible and only intervene when necessary.
I think that many women don’t know how AMAZING our bodies work during birth, and the more we leave the process alone, the better it can do its work. So if there aren’t any complications, I hope to do it by myself with the support of my husband, children, and midwife. If I were having a hospitalised birth, my birth plan would have many more details. I absolutely love Milli Hill’s book, Birth Like A Feminist. She offers great guidelines to write your Feminist birth plan and I definitely recommend it to every pregnant woman.
Lastly, who is your Mother Muse?
I have so many. I love Romy Boomsma, Jetteke van Lexmond, Marije Braber, and Anna van den Bogert here in the Netherlands. They are such strong women who embrace their feminine qualities (kindness, softness, empathy) at the same time. I love that. I don’t know anybody funnier than Leonie ter Braak. On Instagram, I love to follow Pandora Sykes because she is so talented at combining motherhood with work too. And the energy of Stormi Bree ❤