Eight. That’s how many times my daughter spit up on me as I was presenting before the managing director of Golden Seeds, one of the most preeminent investment groups in New York City. It certainly was not what I would have hoped for, but it is my reality. My only hope is it makes me memorable.
You see, I’m not only the mom to a 3.5 year old and a 3.5 month old, I’m also trying to raise seed funds for my rapidly-growing digital health business, Ouchie. And despite my confidence that I could easily balance a newborn and a startup as I did with my oldest, nothing has gone according to plan. While my older daughter took a bottle with no issue, transitioned without fuss to daycare at three months and then seamlessly adapted to the introduction of formula when the well began to dry, the newest addition to the family dared to be different. No matter what we tried, baby June could not latch onto a bottle and required feeding every hour. So in between pitches and presentations, I was attending gastroenterologists and feeding specialists. All the while, the little lady joined me at every work event. Safely nestled in the Ergo carrier, we took the daily trip on New Jersey Transit into the city and the subway down to the office. Together we endured quizzical looks from the 20-somethings in the co-working space. We traveled up to a law firm to review contracts and across town to review designs with a development group. As my back grew weary from the weight of my laptop and my chest glistened with sweat from the tiny creature laying on me, June would give me a sleepy grin and I’d keep on trudging ahead.
The response I’ve gotten from those I’ve encountered on this journey, in both a professional and personal capacity, has been overwhelmingly positive. There was the aforementioned investor who encouraged me to nurse when the baby got fussy. There was our medical adviser who introduced my daughter to colleagues as our Chief Operating Officer when we toured his hospital. There was another investor who succinctly said, “Well, isn’t this what we all work so hard for anyway?” There were the potential clients at a dinner meeting, both parents themselves, who after briefly oohing and ahhing, conducted business as usual. Thankfully those who did not have anything nice to say didn’t say anything at all. I’m grateful that the majority of the people in my circle are female and that the incubator I’m part of (shout-out to Monarq) is dedicated to promoting diverse founding teams and frequently misunderstood founders. I’m lucky that my daughter is at a very portable age, one only slightly more interactive than when she was in my womb, and that her disposition allowed me to engage with others with limited distraction. And, I’m incredibly happy that those I worked with and alongside could see beyond the baby in my arms and speak with me about the issues at hand.
“I felt like I had no other choice but to keep moving forward. It’s my nature to adapt and to fight like hell for the things I love and believe in. In this case, it was both my business and my daughter. Neither could be or deserved to be left behind and even though it’s been difficult physically and emotionally, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”
Today, for the second consecutive day, June took a bottle. Not too long ago I daydreamed of the time I could drive to a client without the sound of cries in the backseat, pitch a VC without a tiny head bobbing back and forth or attend a dinner meeting without fear of dropping food on her face. Now there’s a twinge of sadness that I’ll soon be going at it alone. I’ll have to find a way to carry June’s perspective with me without her actual presence. I have a feeling my outfits will look better without the spit-up.