Founder of Midheaven Denim, Kathryn Brolin On Postpartum, Evacuating The Malibu Fires With A Newborn, Plus Being A Hands-on Mama

It’s no wonder that Kathryn, the founder of Midheaven Denim and wife to Josh Brolin, has the sweetest baby, considering how lovely she is. Strong, thoughtful, calm, and stunning, she shares the intimate details of Westlyn’s birth, the reality of breastfeeding, and her postpartum recovery. @kathrynbrolin @midheavendenim

What was your birth experience?

When my sister was about to give birth she asked me to document the labor. It was powerful; I was struggling to get photos that were clear because I was shaking so much and crying behind the camera. However, when it came time for my birth, I’d only planned for Josh and the doctor to be in the room, but halfway through the delivery, I asked them to bring my mom and sisters in (we’re all so close), and their faces lit up the moment they saw me. It was such an incredible experience to have their big beautiful smiles encouraging me on.

Having Westlyn was the best day of my life, and I feel bad talking about what an enjoyable experience it was because many women aren’t as lucky to have a good pregnancy or birth experience. A good friend of mine, Carson Meyer, is a doula and gave me a few tips to make the birth room ambiance more serene. I brought mini lights, tea light candles, and a speaker to play my favorite song. I had this idea that pushing was going to be this dramatic scene out of a movie, where I’d be screaming, and everyone would rush into the room. When I started pushing, it was all very calm, and 45 minutes later I pulled her out. She went right onto my chest and didn’t cry for the first five minutes, and we worried if she was OK. Little did we know she was just the most chill little child there ever was. She went straight to boob, and it was bliss.

Wow, I’m tearing just hearing that. What about breastfeeding? 

Breastfeeding is incredible, NOW. In the beginning, it was like going to war. My hormones were bouncing all over the place, and I couldn’t distinguish between rational thoughts or crazy thoughts. Plus, I was continually trying to figure out if people were looking at me encouragingly or like they should quarantine me.  When you’re dealing with all of that, plus healing from the birth (which is so much more than anyone prepares you for), and on top of that having to feed this tiny human who’s attaching themselves to you, over and over again until you’re in so much pain that you don’t know if you can continue. To say it was a lot is an understatement. However, I’m happy that I hung with it as my connection with her is so intense. It’s different for everybody. I know many women that can’t breastfeed or choose to go straight to formula, but I’m grateful that I have been able to.

You mentioned healing post-birth, what was that like for you, especially after having to evacuate your home with a newborn?

I read all the research to prepare, but when I was going through it, I felt as if I was opening the door for the very first time. Throughout my pregnancy, I was light, bright, fun, and energetic. I was dancing all the time and kept my energy up with four or five workouts a week doing weights, pilates, and swimming in the ocean. Plus, I listened to this great podcast by Dr. Rhonda Rand with Joe Rogan. She cites helpful tips on what to eat while pregnant, which contributed to my feel-good demeanor. For example, if you eat salmon roe instead of salmon filet, the body absorbs the nutrients better and contributes to a baby’s brain development. 

While I loved being pregnant, postpartum was difficult as I’m sure it is for most. I would go days without checking in with myself, plus, when Westlyn was three days home from the hospital, we had to evacuate our home during the Malibu fires. We thought we were going to lose our house, and it felt like Armageddon. I was so raw, and emotional as a new mother with no sleep and scabbing nipples. We went north to our house on the central coast, and stayed there for three weeks. It was beyond lovely for us to be there and bond as a family and start our journey in discovering how to navigate this newness, but in hindsight, we felt the lack of our community, and I personally felt the lack of the amazing females in my life who could’ve help guide me in my postpartum a bit, and make sure that I was doing the right things to heal. When we finally got home, I bought the book The First 40 Days and started eating every meal from that book. It helped to balance me out.

How did you launch a new business and have a baby at the same time?

The business is something that I’d been thinking about for years during my modeling days—purely because there was a need for tall girl jeans—but I anticipated doing it much later in life. I’m not sure what shifted, but one morning I woke up and suddenly felt “now’s the time!” I just went for it. Then similarly, somewhere amidst all the stress of starting Midheaven, I felt this opening for a baby.  On paper, it was probably the worst time to have a baby as we were traveling all over for Josh’s career and I was launching my brand. However, there was something that happened in our personal life where I felt we could have a baby and she would fit right in with us.

How do you manage the day to day with her?

We don’t have a nanny, and we do everything ourselves. I love it, but it’s a lot. Right now she comes with me to the office, which I’m very well aware may change when she starts crawling. Before giving birth, I was fully prepared with external support, including a night nurse and a nanny, so that I wouldn’t have to slow down. Then everything changed when she came, and I knew that these early months before she’s crawling would fly by. I wanted to be here for her and present for it all. I had this intense feeling that I’d be disappointed if I cheapened or shortened it in any way by hiring someone to care for her while I kept to my regular work routine.

On an average day, she comes with me everywhere, and I do emails while she’s sleeping.  After our morning routine, we typically either head to the office or the Midheaven pop-up in Malibu at the Lumber Yard — which has been awesome to see our customers and has allowed us to expand our offering of sizes. We launched the store shortly after the fires, which was tricky because no one was shopping and people were trying to pick their lives back up. For a long time, the hillsides were just black, and now when you look out, they’re covered in wildflowers. It’s such a metaphor for life and rebirth.