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My husband might miss the birth of our first child

I'm seven months pregnant and my husband is in a war zone—I couldn't tell you which one because I don't know.

Pregnant With child

A dear friend of mine recently used me as an example to her New York pals who were complaining about being quarantined in their tiny apartments. "At least you're not pregnant," she said and then went into detail about my life and its complex constellation of worries.

I'm seven months pregnant and my husband is in a war zone—I couldn't tell you which one because I don't know.

He's a trauma surgeon in the British Army on a mission with special forces. I have no way of contacting him other than by encrypted email. He can Skype me, but only if he can get his hands on a computer, if there's no bad weather scrambling the signal and if they're not on a communication lockdown due to a security threat.

When he left in January, coronavirus had not yet entered the lexicon or our Western environs. No one would have believed that two months later, the world would be in quarantine and that the 'safest' place might actually be on a self-contained base in a war zone.

Quarantined alone, I rattle and piddle around our house, looking for comfort. Usually, writing provides that, but not right now. Right now, I turn to ice cream most nights. Because I know that if I write, I risk exposing the parts of myself I don't want to show, the parts I'm afraid to see. And right now, I'm afraid of hearing the sound of my own whining. God knows we've all heard enough of the worries of everyone, the last thing I want is to add to the cacophony of complaints.


An acquaintance of mine who is 30 weeks along in her pregnancy posts on Instagram how sad she is to cancel her baby shower. I see her sadness, both its source and her voicing of it, as a petty luxury.

We all have our regular lives to contend with on top of the pandemic, what gives her the right to grieve so small a thing? Envy builds, bitterness grows. Then I remember something about 'comparative suffering'—the title of a Brene Brown podcast I bookmarked. Suffering is suffering is suffering. Mine isn't worse or more worthy than anyone else's.

Still, I would give anything to exchange my grief for hers. I bet my friends and loved ones with cancer or COVID-19 would, too.

It's a fascinating, bizarre, dreadful notion to know I will be giving birth to my first child during an unprecedented pandemic. But that's not really what worries me right now.

What worries me is that when my husband returns, he will go from one frontline to another. I don't know how any human can cope with that kind of pressure and stress. And because pregnant women are deemed 'vulnerable,' once he goes back to work at the hospital, he might have to be quarantined in a hotel until further notice.

What worries me is that I'll have to give birth to this baby boy without him, that I'll have to enter motherhood alone, that he won't get to hold his newborn son.

And those are the best of my worries.

My deepest, darkest worries are that he won't return at all. That something will happen to his base like it did his fellow military colleagues in Iraq just a few weeks ago. COVID-19 is a threat to my family, but so is a rocket attack.

I don't like having to admit that I currently carry a snarky sense of entitlement in the suffering department. Because no matter how bad you have it, somebody's got it worse, right? But that's dismissive and minimizing. So, how do I cope? How do I turn down the volume on my own anger and irritability? How do I let myself, and others, grieve openly for what's been lost and what's at stake here?

In the park across the street, there is a sapling all adorned in white blossoms. Its branches, aglow in the morning light, dance in the wind. Yesterday morning I watched a woman walk by, raise her phone to take a photo then quickly walk away like she'd stolen something. Did she feel ashamed to have come across something bright and promising in these so-called dark times? Dark or not, now is the time, if there's ever been one, to notice and allow for beauty. No need to feel guilty when it graces you.

That sweet sapling, an emblematic reminder of a new season and everything that comes with it, like hope. Attached to the end of each branch; a bud, a message. Life, and suffering, go on. Pandemics have the power to stop baby showers and who knows, maybe even slow raging wars. Whether I obsess about my worries makes no difference to Mother Nature, she is indifferent and unstoppable.

At seven months pregnant, my body knows this better than my brain and heart.

My baby, warm in my swollen belly, kicks, innocent and oblivious. I take a deep breath in. Tomorrow is on its way, no matter what. I take comfort in that. My hope, my out-breath, is maybe you will too.

In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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