Amy Woodside From The Wing, On Becoming A Single Mama

There are few ways to describe Amy without including descriptors like graceful, inspiring and strong. When we embarked on this journey with The Wing, I knew I’d be moved by the stories I heard and the women I’d meet, but Amy takes it to the next level.
As the founder of OKREAL, a resource for modern women trying to create their own path, Amy’s no stranger to being a pillar of strength for other women. Therefore at 5 months pregnant when she found out some devastating news about her now ex-husband that’s ultimately changed the trajectory of her life, she shares with us how moved she’s been by the solidarity and the kindness she’s felt from other women. She notes, a new sisterhood arises when you’re pregnant—this feeling like ‘we’re in this together’. @fr.amy @heyokreal

Photographer @_heather_moore

Boy or girl?

A son.

Current state of mind?

I have an immeasurable amount of love for my boy. In light of everything, he’s become even more precious & more of a gift to me—the start of his life will also be the start of a new life for me. The past 6 weeks have been awash in so much trauma & pain, and the hardest part is knowing that my baby has been impacted. At almost 6 months pregnant I had dropped back down to my pre-pregnant weight from stress, so my main focus is getting him to feel safe again, and healthy.

Do you feel empowered by becoming a single mom?

Empowered sounds very noble, not quite sure I’m there yet! But I was raised by a single mom of five, so I’ve seen it done and I know it’s entirely possible. Of course, I had a completely different future imagined. I’m still processing the loss of that future, plus the fact that the person who I thought was going to be part of that future was also a complete facade—living an entirely different life on the side. However when it comes to motherhood, I’ve always felt adept. Raising him on my own is not what scares me most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very aware of how hard it is going to be and how this alters the trajectory of my entire life—but I’ve seen it done with such grace, and know that I am capable.

What does scares you the most?

That I was with someone for 8 years who was not who I thought he was—and trusted him enough to have a baby with him. Perhaps if we had fought a lot this wouldn’t have been such a shock. But when you discover that the person who has been telling you he loves you, has also been telling multiple women around the world he’s single with details of their relationships being sent to you from these women, (which I continue to receive) is pretty horrifying. The deceit and cruelty that someone is capable of is what scares me.

What are you most nervous about becoming a mom?

Before all of this, I was nervous about things that now seem inconsequential. I was ruminating over thoughts like, ’how am I going to manage my business with a new baby’, and ‘how do I maintain my sense of self’, and ‘stretch marks(!!)’. Things that I have every right to be worried about, but now in light of everything, seem frivolous. Instead, what keeps me up at night are things like, ‘what do I tell my son?’, and ‘how do I prevent him from being damaged by this?’, and ‘how do I make sure he has male role models who have respect for women, who can show him what honesty and integrity look like?’. It’s VERY real shit that worries me now. Those initial concerns have completely subsided and I’m acutely focused on how to raise my son so he knows that he’s loved.

What are you most excited about becoming a mom?

I’m so excited about this kid! Even though my life has been turned upside down, I recognize my privilege of having family and community to support me through this. I’m literally living in my little brothers room right now, out of a single suitcase that I brought back from New York, but I know that I’m loved by the people who matter most. My ex hasn’t contacted me in over a month, but in place of that, I have emails from women who I don’t even know offering me kind words. My son has become everything. He’s my life and light at the end of all of this. Beneath all the darkness & bullshit, there’s this really powerful love that no amount of pain can touch.

Any advice to other women who are experiencing a traumatic situation during pregnancy?

Find a good therapist! That’s been really important for me. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m the best to be giving advice as I’m just starting to function again—things like eating food and sleeping are at the top of my list—but I also have to release the pain, embrace the grieving and be ok with that. I have good days and I have bad days, but I think keeping the pain inside is a lot more damaging than actually letting it out. For me, being open about the trauma allows me to acknowledge and accept this new reality. You feel a bit crazy, like—how is this my life? You also start to feel like an idiot looking at the signs in hindsight—for instance, I ‘wasn’t allowed’ to put any photos of us as a couple on my Instagram for years, not even pictures of his work when I was proud of him (he’s an artist). I ‘wasn’t allowed’ to tag him in the photo I used to announce my pregnancy. At the time he told me it was because he wanted to keep his private life private—but now I see it was something that enabled his single facade. When I think about that I feel so foolish—but for women going through something similar, I want to say: This is not your fault. The shame of this is not yours to carry. What has happened does not define you, it only defines the other person.

Any cravings?

Not really, no. For the first 3 months I was so sick and trying to run a business while attempting to hide the fact that I was pregnant—it was nearly impossible. I found that coffee and carbs first thing in the morning helped, so I’d drink a latte with a muffin. I would get up at 3AM every day to work because that was the only time I didn’t feel sick, then I’d head back to bed midday.

Unexpected things throughout pregnancy, that no one tells you?

The solidarity of women. A new sisterhood arises when you’re pregnant—this feeling like ‘we’re in this together’. It has reinforced what I built my business and my life around.

Do you think your job will effect the way you’re raising your kid?

Absolutely. I’d be naive to think otherwise. There are two sides to it, one that presents challenges in terms of childcare or missing out on time with your child, especially as a single mother which has emotional and logistical implications. And the other side is setting an example of independence. For me personally, my mom always worked while raising us, and that is what I will do too. Having her as an example has given me so much strength and courage.

On being back in New Zealand:

My ex and I had planned to have the baby here—we had applied for his New Zealand visa, we were planning a life here—so while obviously none of that is happening anymore, having my baby in New Zealand has not changed.

My ex and I had planned to have the baby here—we had applied for his New Zealand visa, we were planning a life here—so while obviously none of that is happening anymore, having my baby in New Zealand has not changed.

How did you start OKREAL and why?

I was originally working in advertising in New Zealand & Toronto. I met my ex in NY in 2009, and moved here soon after. After working at a branding agency for a stint, I knew I wanted more for myself. I wanted to do something that married my experience in the creative and business world, and build something that I thought was missing. It was late 2014, and at the time, there weren’t a whole lot of women-focused communities that were hosting events, or online platforms that spoke to me in a way that felt relevant and down to earth. So I set out to create a curation of wisdom shared by strong, smart women, and OKREAL grew from there. We started as a digital platform, and now in addition to online content, we host panels, weekly mentor circles, and do one on one coaching.

Thoughts on The Wing?

Beyond wonderful. I have so much respect for what they’re doing—from the whole team to the members, it’s all been exceptional. They’ve created this space & cultivated an environment for women like me or businesses like mine to really flourish in.

On OKREAL and supporting women?

I had no idea that my career would be so focused on women. When I got to NY in 2009, this whole modern feminism movement wasn’t so prevalent. Growing up in New Zealand, I had all of these amazing examples of women around me—from strong female bosses, to my mother who is super-hero—all truly incredible examples of female strength. I never attributed it to “feminism” per se, or gave it a label and rather thought, ‘this is what women are like, and this is the kind of woman I want to be.’ Even when I started OKREAL, it wasn’t this “woman thing”. Then this brilliant new wave of feminism rolled in and I rode with it. It’s now a huge part of our brand culture, and OKREAL’s focus on women has definitely become more deliberate.

Any advice about career, life, being a woman or becoming a mother?

The amount of strength you have, if you really need it, will shock you. Know that it is there.