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She's a world famous mother, but she's also helping mothers around the world as the founder of the nonprofit Every Mother Counts.

On the latest episode of the second season of The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential, Turlington Burns tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about her journey into motherhood and why she wants the world (and America, especially) to understand that every mother counts.

How birth changed her perspective 

Turlington Burns tells Tenety that she felt empowered when she had her first child 15 years ago. She was at a place in her life were she felt ready, and had access to great healthcare. She chose to birth with a midwife and a doula in a birthing center within a hospital. She describes her daughter's birth as "perfect," but she wasn't prepared for the medical issue that came next.

"I felt so proud of myself. I felt so strong. I felt so grateful. I didn't know my daughter's sex until she was born and so I was just like beside myself that I had a daughter and she was latching on and she; like everything was like perfect, perfect. And really in the next I guess within sort of 45 minutes or an hour after she was out is when things sort of turned and changed," she explains.

She continues: "That was the part that I just was not prepared for. I did not deliver my placenta. I had a retained placenta but I didn't even know really what that meant at the time. I had witnessed my sisters giving birth and I sort of seen the placenta come out as an afterthought, not a big deal."

An obstetrician was called in to extract the placenta, an experience Turlington Burns recalls as "excruciatingly painful."

Despite the painful ending, she still looks back on her first birth as a beautiful, life-changing experience.

Helping fellow mothers 

Turlington Burns recognizes how privileged she was to give birth in a great hospital with a midwife, doula and OB to help her and that many mothers don't have that kind of access to quality healthcare.

"That experience is what opened my eyes to this global tragedy. You know I did not know that women and girls were still dying in pregnancy-related complications all over the world. I had no idea," she explains. "I'm sure I would have thought that if that happened it was an incredibly rare event. And I think that's what most people assume. And I learned that the U.S. at that time; my daughter was born in 2003, that more than half a million girls and women were estimated to be dying yearly around the world and that number hadn't come down in decades. And I was completely shocked."

She was shocked, but then she took action. Turlington stated studying this problem, seriously. She was inspired to pursue her Master's degree in Public Health at the Columbia University, and in 2010 she made a documentary, No Woman, No Cry and launched the nonprofit, Every Mother Counts, dedicated to advocating for safer childbirth, everywhere.

"That decision didn't happen overnight. You know it took me a while before I really delved in. After my experience with delivering Grace I thought okay I want to advocate for natural childbirth. I want to advocate for every woman having access to options and you know having information and being able to make those choices and how everybody deserves this you know empowering transformative birth experience. But I didn't know how that would sort of play itself out and it really wasn't until a few years later after I had my second child that it started to become more clear. And then you know being lucky that I was in a position in my life and career where I had some time. I had the resources. I had relationships. I had connections," she explains.

What connects mothers around the world 

As a filmmaker and the founder of Every Mother Counts, Turlington Burns has had the opportunity to talk to mothers around the world, and she says no matter where a mother lives there are some things we all have in common.

"We all want our kids to thrive. We all want our kids to have opportunities to access education, to have food and shelter and those are basic human rights and needs met. That every woman that I've ever met, everyone has that feeling and without even a shared language," she tells Tenety.

"We can sit side by side and connect on those just simple facts, which is a beautiful thing. And it's an inspiring thing. I think it really helps us stay on course with the work because that's what we ultimately want right is for a mom to be able to do what she can to thrive not only for herself but for her family and her community."

To hear more from Christy Turlington Burns about her experience as a mother and as an advocate for mothers, check out the The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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