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Victoria Cairo Doula
The kids are down, your work is done - how do you spend your “me” time, when you get it?
I wish I could say that you’d find me practicing some elaborate self-care routine or enjoying a (virtual or socially distanced) catch up with a friend, but the truth is that most of my scarce “me” time is spent sleeping! My husband and I have taken to eating dinner at 5 pm with our son, Otis, so that as soon as he’s down we can quickly clean up the kitchen, throw in some laundry and straighten up, before getting into bed as early as humanly possible (sometimes even before the sun has set these days!). Neither one of us operates very well without a solid night’s sleep and since our little guy still has a less-than-regular sleep schedule, we’re trying to sneak in a couple of hours wherever we can get them!
What is the thing you bought in the last three months that you have most enjoyed?
I’ve been making an effort to shop with Black-owned businesses over the past couple of months and have discovered so many incredible products in the process - it’s hard to narrow it down to just one! I bought the most exquisite soap from Redoux, which has really leveled-up my shower experience (so important when you’re a new parent and shower time is some of your only alone time!). I also got the sweetest necklace from jewelry maker Bychari with my son’s nickname on it, so that I can always hold him close to my heart. And a few weeks ago I spontaneously purchased a gorgeous pastel-hued cake stand from Estelle, which has been bringing me so much joy (and giving me an excuse to make some fun treats) every time I walk into my kitchen!
What is the quality you most like in yourself as a mother?
I have surprised myself by being a much more intuitive mother than I ever expected. I think people assume that babies don’t really understand what’s going on around them and that because they're so dependent, that they’re not very conscious. But they are so much more aware than we give them credit for.
Since the day he was born, I’ve looked at Otis as an independent, unique, intelligent, and capable human and I try to treat him the same way I would want to be treated if I weren't able to verbally communicate. Sometimes this simply looks like talking through a diaper change or our plans for the day, so that he can feel like an active participant. I also try not to immediately shush him when he cries, because I recognize that crying is his way of expressing his needs or emotions to me, and I never want him to feel like he needs to silence those things. I really believe that parenting is a partnership with your kid(s) and that it is as much my responsibility to listen to Otis and let him show me who he is as it is to help him grow into his best self. To be clear, I definitely still panic from time to time and I’ve been known to fall prey to that 2 am Google research black hole - because no amount of intuition prepares you for some of the crazier moments of new parenthood!
What’s the other career you’d most like to try out, given a second professional life?
In a way, I’m doing it with my transition into doula work! I’m insanely lucky, because I’ve already had so many professional experiences. I got to work in art, in fashion, in beauty/wellness, and in travel - all fields that have been passions of mine. But, after Otis was born, things really shifted for me and my priorities and interests coalesced in a really clear way. I was profoundly impacted by the women who had circled around me during my pregnancy and postpartum periods, offering their physical and emotional support, but also their wisdom and guidance. I felt a deep calling to offer myself up in support of others going through this delicate, transformational moment in their lives. I’m just starting down this path, so I’m very excited to see where it takes me.
What are the nicest things your partner does for you, and you for them?
These days, the nicest thing that we can do for each other is often just taking over early morning baby duty so that the other one can get a few extra minutes of sleep. We don’t currently have any childcare help and we don’t have family that live nearby either, so we each do what we can around the house to lighten the load for the other. For example, my husband will try to prep meal ingredients (and clean the kitchen!) while he’s on his work calls so that I’m less crazed trying to get dinner on the table for our perpetually hungry 10-month-old. And each night, as part of our son’s bedtime ritual, we offer up gratitudes for the day, making sure to acknowledge each other’s contributions. It’s becoming a really sweet and grounding practice to remind ourselves of how lucky we are in these strange times.
How important is routine to you? What parts of your routine are sacrosanct?
I had such visions of myself as this totally laid back parent who would just bring their kid along everywhere and wouldn’t be held hostage by silly things like nap schedules and feeding routines. Well, the joke’s on me, because I have a baby who just absolutely thrives on routine and structure and really, really does not like to miss a nap.
Quarantine hasn’t really helped matters, because we have nowhere to be, so it’s been easy to fall into a very regular routine. Plus, I think that creating structure to our day helps us to feel some sense of control and normalcy. As a new(ish) parent, most of my own personal routines have taken the backseat, but with Otis, we keep to a schedule. Nap times are sacrosanct and we really try not to mess with them. The same goes for bedtime. And we try to take two walks a day as a family, one in the morning and one in the evening. Anyone who has been a caretaker to a baby knows there’s this very visceral fear around messing up sleep rhythm. Routine makes everyone in our family feel a little more sane these days, and for now, I’m good with that.
What are your professional goals and how do you go about achieving them?
As someone who has changed professions so many times, I think that my definition of success is quite different than it might have been ten years ago. There’s no organizational ladder for me to ascend or specific promotion for me to aspire to achieve. Now, my professional goals look a lot like my personal goals. I hope to add some value to the world, to be kind and respectful, to be treated with respect, to approach everything with a spirit of openness, and a willingness to learn, improve, and to feel a sense of fulfillment from the way I spend my days. For now, I’m working to achieve my goals by educating myself as much as possible (including a whole lot of anti-racism work) and showing up for the community in whatever way that I can be of service. It’s a daily practice!
What are the things that make your home personal to you and your family?
This is a timely question because the location of our chosen home is currently a bit up in the air. Pre-pandemic, we lived in Brooklyn, NY, but we left in March for our little farm in the Berkshires and have yet to return to city living. We’re thinking hard about what we want the next five (and ten and fifteen) years to look like, including thinking about where we want to have our home base!
No matter where we end up, though, some of our favorite items in our home are pieces that we’ve collected on our travels. Little wooden sculptures that we picked up on our honeymoon in Indonesia, a set of terracotta bowls that we carted across Mexico on a hilarious road trip, and the most beautiful handmade glasses chosen on a recent trip to Venice, to name a few. I love that the items in our home help to tell the story of our lives together and serve as a tangible reminder of some of our happiest memories.
How important is community to you, and how do you go about building and nurturing it for your family?
Community is everything! If my postpartum period taught me anything, it is that there is nothing more valuable than having a strong and supportive community behind you. I struggled in the early days after Otis’s birth. Physically, I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t very mobile. Emotionally, I was cracked wide open and really feeling all of the feelings. I needed a lot of support in those early days and I was fortunate enough to have it.
One of the most valuable things that I did when Otis was a newborn was to join a new parent support group. We met weekly to laugh, cry (a lot), swap stories and tips, and just generally hold space for each other as we navigated the wild early days of raising our tiny humans. Now, ten months later, we still text almost every day. That community was and continues to be a true lifeline in a very vulnerable moment of my life.
I have to admit that in-person connection with my community is probably the thing I miss most about pre-pandemic life. Zoom catch ups just don’t feed the soul. At the same time, I am grateful that this pandemic has helped to shine a light on the need to nurture and build up the community at large, far beyond our own circles of family and friends. We have a lot of work to do!
What maternity style or clothing item could you not find this time around that you most wish FH would create?
When I was pregnant, I was perpetually in search of a truly great pair of pregnancy-friendly pants. Sure, maternity jeans are an option but what I really wanted was a pretty pair of flowy silk or linen trousers. I tried so many, but they all ended up being awkwardly shaped or stretchy to the point of falling right off my butt in the middle of the subway (this really happened!). If I’m lucky enough to get to experience pregnancy again, I look forward to finding my perfect pair!