Food Goddess Danielle Duboise On Becoming A Mama Plus Pregnancy Dressing, Moons & Breastfeeding

When we first met Danielle, co-founder of Sakara—a plant-based meal delivery program—a number of years ago, we were enamored. Preaching food-is-medicine, Danielle is bright, inspiring, and totally our jam! Now pregnant, we caught up one morning to chat about embracing the journey, maternity (and pregnancy) leave, you are what you eat (the majority of the time), plus the difficulty of learning to unlearn through motherhood. @danielleduboise @sakaralife

On taking maternity leave as a business owner:

At Sakara we offer three months paid maternity leave and an unlimited vacation policy. However, even with that offering, I’ve never really checked out. Truth is, living in NYC means you’re always on, to some degree—whether you own your business or not. Although, this is the first year since we launched that if I weren’t around for a month, it’ll be OK. Things potentially won’t get done the way that I’d do them, but the whole thing won’t fall apart. It only took 6.5 years to get to this point—that’s all!

These days, Whitney Tingle (my co-founder) and I are focused on outward facing things like panels, podcast, and rich content. When we started Sakara we were the faces of the brand and as the company grew we became more involved in building the business, i.e. operations, logistics, and finance. I’m grateful to have had this valuable education, but that’s not where we best serve the company. We’ve hired experts in those fields and now it’s time for us to get back out there as the founders of the brand and speak to the products we offer. A friend of mine, the former President of DVF, said: ‘Every time you’re sitting in front of the computer in your office, you’re doing your company a disservice.’ Obviously this still happens most of the time, but we’re working to prioritize more public facing efforts. However with the baby coming, I’ll pause for a few months and pick up when I’m back.

Pregnancy leave and a shift in the working culture:

I want to invent pregnancy leave at Sakara. I don’t think it has to be dramatic and it may be as simple as taking a half-day on Fridays for self-care. Every woman I know is working hard, if not harder, through their pregnancy, so they can take a few weeks off once they have their baby. We have to change this mentality. I want women to prioritize caring for themselves guilt-free during their pregnancy. 

We have six women on our leadership team and they’re all either pregnant or moms (except Whitney) and they’re the most efficient people I know. Plus, by offering pregnancy leave it eases the team into temporarily absorbing their team member’s workload while they’re on maternity leave.

Historically the workplace has been shaped by men and as we shift into a more feminine workplace we have to consider what that looks like. I don’t think we have all the answers yet, but starting the conversation around concepts like pregnancy leave sparks change. We’re living in a time where almost all of your work can be done remotely and I believe there’s room for flexibility.

Due date?

I’m due July 11th, but she’s going to come early. June 28th is her day! They come up with the due date based on when you think you conceived and I think it’s a bit inaccurate.  Plus, June 28th is a full moon and a lot of women go into labor during full moons. We’ll find out soon enough!

It’s a girl!

Damien really wanted a girl, however when we actually found out that she’s a girl, I immediately had this little wave of fear because I know that she’s going to be a huge lesson for me. Whereas I feel like a boy would be a big lesson for my husband. This girl is going to be a reflection of me and will force me to work through all of my stuff. It’s going to be a journey for sure!

On guiding them:

A good friend of mine, Aviva Romm, recently said to me: ‘You’re here to guide, but your baby is on her own path and through the process you’re going to have to do more unlearning then learning.’  She says we have to release any preconceived notions of who we think our baby will be, what kind of parent we want to be and what you think constitutes a good parent or child. We must unlearn everything we think we know and just let them be.

Change your perception?

I studied Kabbalah for a number of years after meeting a guy on a plane that was a Kabbalah teacher. The way that I perceived it was less of religion and more of a technology or a set of tools for dealing with life. One of their main teachings is to how to be proactive rather than reactive. For example, if you’re stuck in traffic and your natural reaction is to be stressed or angry, according to Kabbalah you have to force yourself to do the opposite. That means find a reason to be grateful for being traffic by turning on a podcast, taking a moment to meditate or making a call. Do something that changes the situation. This teaches us that while you can’t always change the situation, you can control how you feel about it or what you do with it.

Never say no?

When I was studying Kabbalah, I didn’t focus much on parenting, but the few things I remember are:

Explain things to your children and never say ‘NO’ without telling them why you said no.

For the first two years don’t use the word ‘NO’ because it teaches them that there’s a lack in the universe.—Mind you this one seems a little implausible, but who knows! I’m not sure what kind of parent I’m going to be, but I’d imagine that it would be difficult to never use the word ‘NO’. In theory I like it. The larger takeaway is to be conscience of your words and mindful of teaching your children the abundance of the universe.

Operating outside of your comfort zone…

Lastly, they emphasize the importance of doing things that make you feel uncomfortable and constantly be pushing your boundaries. There are 26 lessons on this topic, of which one is to hug a stranger. I was new to NYC at the time I was going through these lessons and I came across a woman crying on the subway. I asked her if she was ok, she said no and I hugged her. She didn’t really hug me back, but I did it nonetheless. I love the idea of actively seeking out what’s difficult, as I think it’s in our nature is to seek out what’s comfortable. And now here I am, pregnant AND uncomfortable!

Getting dressed?

Also uncomfortable. I used to only wear high waisted jeans and crop tops—goes without saying, but that’s not working for me right now. Everything is expanding and my body is a little different each day. The only thing in my closet that fits are summer dresses. Perhaps I just need to lean in and start wearing them with tights, regardless of the less-than-summer weather! 

Nervous about breastfeeding?

I had a surgery when I was 22, a lift. Fortunately my scars are gone, but that surgery can potentially impact breastfeeding. I have all the ducts and everything is there, but it may not all line up properly. Unfortunately, I won’t know until I know. Thinking about this potential issue gives me anxiety. I get hung up on wanting this experience for both of us, but need to remind myself that I wasn’t breastfed and I was a c-section baby, yet I have a great relationship with my mom. Recently I decided to try acupuncture to help ensure my ducts are aligned, but perhaps I simply need believe that I can breastfeed and I’ll be able to! I’ve been reading this book called, The Anatomy of the Spirit, by Caroline Myss and the chapter I’m on right now is about how your thoughts become things. She explains that a thought turns into a biological reaction which in turn manifests in your body. Therefore, if I’m having anxiety around breastfeeding it’s counter productive to actually being able to breastfeed.

NYC foreva?

I question at times if I’m living in the right city. I often dream about downshifting and this is not the city to downshift. We fantasize about taking a year off and traveling around the world to find our place. Perhaps Europe for a little while… I found this magical spot on the coast of Croatia. Who knows…

Pregnancy wellness?

My biggest lesson? Do my best. I had a specific vision about how I would eat while I was pregnant and all of that went out the window! I typically eat a lot of Sakara, plus drink bone brother and tea, but throughout my first trimester I couldn’t keep any of that down. Therefore, I had to pivot, listen to my body and not get hung up on what I was or wasn’t eating. I was grateful at times if I could keep anything down at all (including water) because I was so sick! I try to remember that I am what I do the majority of the time. Everyone has an idea of what her pregnancy will be like and I’ve found that I’ve had to let go of all of that.

Recently I learned that our water is filled with crap—both tap and bottled—therefore I’ve been focused on the quality of the water I drink. At home we have a massive reverse osmosis filtration system in our kitchen. And if I’m out and need to grab a bottle, I look for Mountain Valley Springs. I also just bought a little machine that measures how many dissolved solids (like birth control and anti-depressants) are in your water—I try to bring it with me to restaurants. The best thing to do is filter your own water, add minerals back in (so that your body can absorb the benefits of water) and bring it with you everywhere you go.

So, you’re about to have a baby… 

I’m starting to get really excited about birth. When I first found out that I was pregnant, my automatic reaction was fear. As women we’re taught to fear labor and that it’s going to hurt. However, a lot of what I’m reading now is that it’s not actually pain, but rather a huge feeling that we don’t have a word that’s adequate. Even the word contraction has a negative connotation meaning tight and closing versus opening—my midwife uses the word “wave” instead to describe the sensation.

Where are the beautiful birth stories in Hollywood? There are none. Every movie shows women in agony. I remember watching Look Who’s Talking when I was five and the first scene is a talking swimming sperm that’s traveling to a lifeless egg that’s waiting for a purpose. The second scene is of Kirstie Alley on the hospital bed in dire agony with glaring lights surrounded by men in white gloves, all yelling at her to push. She looks like she may die at any minute. It’s interesting that this narrative is hardly questioned. Even myself, when I found out that I was pregnant, my first instinct was to call a doctor because that’s what you’re “supposed to do”. Eventually I found my own path, but it makes me nervous to think about all the women out there that don’t know there are options. It’s important that women feel empowered during birth, regardless of the path they take.