#withWillow: Erin Bulcao Of MyBeautifulBlunder
Erin is the brains and words behind MyBeautifulBlunder.com and mother to three healthy, vibrant girls. If you take a look through her a raw, up-close-and-personal stories about her journey through IVF you'll notice a honesty and authenticity in her experience. She brings a strong, encouraging, vulnerable voice to what she's been through to make other women feel less, well, alone. We had a chance to speak with Erin about her journey through IVF, the loss and heartbreak but also her newfound perspective on motherhood, breastfeeding, and beyond.
Fertility was a big part of your journey to becoming a mother and you’ve created a community and blog about it to raise awareness and empower others. What made you decide to take the plunge into sharing your story with others?
"I didn’t share or talk about my fertility issues, struggles or losses for almost 8 years. Not talking was affecting my mental health, my marriage and my relationships with others. I also felt very alone and isolated and I thought, there must be someone I could connect with and even help by opening up. So one day I wrote it all down in a blog. I wrote for weeks until a friend of mine suggested for me to create an IG account and share there so that more people could see my story. So I did. The amount of community and support I found was incredible. This allowed me to continue to want to share and open up even more. There weren’t many people sharing everything and I wanted to make sure those who weren’t sharing know that they weren’t alone."
We talk a lot about the shift in identity but we’d love to hear your perspective— how has motherhood changed you — has it?
"Oh it absolutely has. It’s made me more self aware. I have become so in tune with my own feelings, my own needs and desires. Mainly because I also fell into a deep rut after my twins were born. My marriage was failing and I was doing 0 for me. SO I had to find my voice again, for myself and for my girls. Once I did it changed me and it reminded me that I wanted to set the stage for my girls and I wanted them to see me happy. And while being a mom has made me the most selfless version of myself, its also made me realize it’s ok to still be a little selfish. I’ve also become more empathetic. Motherhood is hard and not one person has the same experience. I’ve realized everyone has a right to mother the way they see fit and unless you’ve walked in that persons’ shoes, there is no room for judgement. So I continuously offer support and understanding rather than “advice” and judgement."
How did breastfeeding/pumping play a role in the full picture of your journey? Or did it not? We know that the work is just beginning once your baby is born and we’d love to know your perspective and experience after everything you’ve been through.
"With the twins I had a lot of milk. My body knew I was producing for two. So much so that I produced enough to stop pumping at 6 months (for a hernia repair surgery) and have enough milk for the two of them for another 3 months. With my rainbow baby, Eriela, I had the same production. I knew I was blessed with a good supply so I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to keep it up. Having gone through it before, I knew this would just be a short period of my life and pumping 6x a day wasn’t going to be forever. I breast fed her but by month 5 we were solely giving her breast milk through her bottle (and still are at 8 and a half months). "
"I think, for me, it was important. I have been through so much that I wanted to experience it all with her. But honestly breastfeeding was hard. I have 10 year old twins and was missing out on a lot with them because of my time spent feeding. So between my frustration and then the fact that Eriela started to prefer the bottle by 4 months, I decided I needed to exclusively pump to keep my sanity in check. And honestly, we are ALL much happier about it."
How has the Willow pump helped you either meet or exceed your breastfeeding goals?
"It has saved me! We have taken a few trips and I was so nervous to have to pump in the car, or on the airplane with her on my lap. But having the willow pump really helped me do this with ease. It really is a game changer if you are on the go or if you like to move around AT ALL when you’re pumping. As I mentioned, I have twins who are 10 who really need my presence in different ways. The willow pump has allowed me to be there for them and not worry about pumping or not pumping. I’m actually still pumping twice a day and I know I’ve been able to go this long because of the convenience of the pump."
What tips or tricks can you give to new moms out there when it comes to the first few months of bringing home your baby?
"Give yourself grace! Honestly it’s all a learning game! I mean you are all of a sudden supposed to care for this human who you’ve just met and know nothing about! It’s a lot."
"Be patient with your body. You are different now. Things don’t look the same, things don’t work the same but they will work again. You are different but not broke, in fact you are stronger! So don’t put the energy you have left over into how you look now or what your body can or cant do. Save that energy for the baby and for things that make you happy."
"Go outside. Take walks with the baby, even if its just 15 min a day. Being outside really helps with all the feelings that come up those first few months."
"Remember that time goes by very fast. Your days might seem long, but trust me the hardest days will go by before you have time to blink. Hug that baby as much as you can."
"Do what works for you! If you want to wear your baby all day do it, if you want to put her in the swing that’s fine too! No one lives your daily life and no one gets to decide what’s best for the baby. I barely held my twins because two was a lot. They turned out to be incredible, loving and outgoing little girls. So far, I hold Eriela a lot. We give her so much attention and I’m sure she will also turn out just fine."
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
"Best: Your mental health comes first! Applies to anything and everything but circling back to breastfeeding and pumping. If its stressing you out, it’s not worth it! You have to do what you think you need."
"Worst: Eat cilantro to get pregnant (but yes I tried it for weeks, still nothing)."
What about first time Willow users? What tips can you give them?
"Customer service is amazing, use them! I had questions left and right and every time I reached out I had the absolute best experience. Also you can pump anywhere, be proud of that!"
"If you could give your former postpartum self any advice (words of wisdom or encouragement) what would they be? I would say be patient with myself. I would say time moves so quickly and I would say don’t fight anything that society thinks you should be fighting for. Fight for the moments that make you feel happy and whole. I would say, take the shower, ask for help, pee in peace and eat!! These aren’t luxuries, these are things that make you human, and no matter what, you are still human. Also, you are doing a great job."