Lesley Anne Murphy is adventurous in spirit—but in one particular aspect of her life she wasn’t willing to take any risks. After watching her mother survive breast cancer and determining that she herself tested positive for the BRCA mutation (or tumor suppressor gene), the jet-setter and influencer underwent a preventative double mastectomy. That harrowing journey helped prepare her for her next great adventure—motherhood. The Road Les Traveled founder got engaged soon before the world shut down and put off her wedding until friends and family could be in attendance. Just a few months after saying yes to her partner, she realized she was due to give birth to a baby girl. Here, Murphy gets candid about how her her surgery prepared her for birth and motherhood—and how there are many ways to bond with your baby outside of breastfeeding.
My birth was incredible. I went in with zero expectations. So by that time I had known many women before me to do it, and had heard amazing stories and horror stories. I knew not all goes to plan. So I went in kind of without one, and I think that made for such a good experience because I just trusted the doctors and trusted the journey. She came out super tiny exactly three weeks early—five pounds, 15 ounces.
I knew I wanted an epidural, and I knew I wanted a healthy baby. And that was kind of the plan. The epidural was incredible. I have heard from so many women that obviously the epidural is designed to numb you from the waist down, but nobody told me it was going to feel like this euphoric feeling. And I think it probably hits people differently. But for me, it was just this amazing relaxed state, and I remember the doctor coming in around 2:55 AM to check me one more time. And she looks at me and she goes, “Are you ready to have this baby?” And I looked back at her and I was like, “Right now? Maybe just a few more minutes, I feel so good.” She turned on the lights, she had the nurses come in. The energy, obviously changed. I did seven pushes and she was out. Just the most amazing experience. If I could relive it over and over, I would. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am, because I know that isn’t everyone’s experience.
Path to pregnancy?
I think it happened in the perfect way and in a bit of a non-traditional way—which is right on par with us and kind of the road less traveled. We actually got engaged February of 2020, right before the world shut down. We weren’t able to have a wedding. Especially because his family is over in Australia, and we really want both our families there for that special day. We knew we wanted kids, but I also do believe that science is real and we’re 34 now and we didn’t want to wait. We didn’t want this pandemic to dictate every aspect of our lives. So we weren’t necessarily planning to have a child, but we knew we wanted one and we just kind of let fate take over and I found out I was pregnant late June of 2020.
I think that was our way of taking back control from this pandemic. We’d still be waiting on a wedding, on having kids. And so I’m really, really happy that our story unfolded the way it did because now we have a seven-month-old and we’re living our lives and that’s how it happened for us. Again, it’s not lost on me how lucky we are there, too.
Travel has been such a big part of your life. How was that time without traveling for you?
Oh my gosh. I’ve never had it harder in my life. It was such a challenge in so many aspects because usually we would spend a few weeks out of a year at home, and it was completely turned on its head. And now we were spending a few days out of the year in other places, in other beds, in hotels when we could get away. We went away to Oregon on a road trip, and to Colorado on a road trip in the pandemic. And that felt so nice. Overall, it was just a complete turn of a lifestyle and business. I was going from full-time travel blogger to, ‘Okay, what am I supposed to do now? Anything but travel.” It brought on so many questions and so many insecurities and that’s really where the challenge was. But, I’m also kind of glad it happened that way because I thought for so long I had to travel 300 plus days out of the year to keep an audience.
I learned that’s just not the case. I don’t have to kill myself and get on a plane every other week to keep people interested. I really became more of a lifestyle blogger. And you know, what do you do if you don’t post about travel? I guess, in a pandemic you post about anything else. So it was gardening, recipes, interior design. So many things that I’ve never really dived into, which was a fun challenge.
Do you plan on bringing Nora on the road?
Absolutely. We took her to Hawaii at three months, and LA and New York a couple of times. I honestly feel like she thrives on the road. She gets bored at home so I know she is my daughter. So I know once we get back to that point where we can travel more often, she’s going to love it. And I can’t wait.
Tips for traveling with a baby?
Get to the airport early, plan ahead. And that’s not something I’m entirely accustomed to. Sometimes I like to take on the journey without doing a ton of research. I like the surprise aspect of it. And with children, I think you need to have a bit more organization. It’s crazy because I traveled to Zion last week with my partner, and we were getting ready and we did the travel day. And I was like, “I feel like I’m forgetting something here. What is wrong?” And it’s just when you’re so used to traveling with a baby and then travel without a baby, it feels like a breeze. And so I think the rule one travel tip is just plan, get to the airport early, and go in with no expectations. Because you’ll never know how that travel day is going to go. Anything can happen.
You’ve been so open about your feeding journey. How is your experience going now?
I love feeding Nora by bottles, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed her from the get-go. I had a preventative double mastectomy in 2017 and I took that choice away from her way back then. I did that surgery for me and my health because I saw what it did to my mom. And today she’s great and she’s healthy, but she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy. And I didn’t want that for myself. And so I did it preventatively and I’m so proud of my 29-year-old self for doing that. But today I look at Nora and I know I did that for her because she’s now going to have a mom who’s going to be around for as long as possible because you never know when that gene can be turned on in an instant.
Putting my story out there from 2017 on, I’ve gotten so many messages from women younger and younger, and that’s a scary thing. We just never know when it’s going to hit—breast cancer knows no age. So if that means that I have to feed Nora through a bottle, so be it. I’m so proud of that decision. She took a bottle like a champ from day one. I know a lot of people are scared of that, but I know you can bond with them through bottle feeding, and through so many other methods.
Even just last night, we’re a sick household right now. And we were up at all hours of the night—I was just trying to settle her. She was just staring at me as I sang the age-old “You Are My Sunshine,” over and over to her. I felt so connected to her in that moment. So I just want other women to know that if they’re going through something similar, you can bond with your child in so many other ways.
Do you think your surgery helped prepare you for motherhood?
Definitely. I kept gearing up for labor and delivery and I feel like when you hit around 36 weeks, you’re on baby watch. And I kept thinking, ‘How is this going to go? Is this going to hurt?’ And I was like, ‘No, I am so ready for this.’ I had my breasts removed. I can do this. Especially with an epidural on my side, I can do this. Then I remember lying there from right when I got to the hospital when the contractions were coming on. The doctor was like, “You have some high pain tolerance, girl.” And I was like, “Yeah, maybe I do.” I think I have my double mastectomy to thank for that.
I think it prepared me in a mental way as well. Just because you have to prep for something like that in every single way. It’s almost more emotional than it is physical, especially if you’re attached to your breasts. And so moving into pregnancy and labor and delivery, I knew how to prepare myself for that just from past experience with my body. And I’ve always been very in tune with my body. I felt like labor and delivery was so beautiful. The human female body is extremely powerful.
I feel like I did okay with maternity leave. Working for yourself, it’s tough to really draw boundaries and designate that time. But I learned quickly that your newborn baby will do that for you. Something I learned early on is I could have all the plans in the world to go back to work. But I always kept coming back to the word surrender, because you have to give up everything to take on this new life. I wanted to take the first month or two really slowly or mostly off from work. I think I tried coming back around eight weeks. I learned every day is different and she comes first. So I just had to keep coming back to surrendering and knowing that my life is forever changed for the better and that right now, she is my everything.
Also with that, I know it takes a village and that’s why we moved back to Arkansas. I had a lot of trouble coming to the conclusion that Arkansas was the right place coming from living all over the world and living in and out of LA. I never thought I’d move back, but I also watched my older sister have two kids, and I know how important family is. It’s also not lost on me, how lucky that we were to be able to make a move in a pandemic and have family around. There’s no place I’d rather be. My mom has played such a huge role in taking care of Nora and allowing us to go back to work a bit more as time goes on. And she just started her first day of daycare last week. So I think as she gets older, we can take on more responsibilities with work life balance—and it is a balance. I think it’s always going to be a juggling act and that’s motherhood.
Relationship with your partner in this new phase??
It’s amazing. I do feel again so lucky to have a very supportive partner. He is in it from sun up to way past sun down and he keeps saying it out loud too. He’s like, “We’re such a good team.” And I’m getting emotional saying that because I just know that that isn’t always the case for a lot of people out there, especially in a newborn phase. It is so tough. Sleep deprivation is real. You may have different parenting styles too, which makes arguments come into play. And for us, we just feed off one another. And since the beginning, I’ve had this term transfer of energy. If it’s not working with him and Nora, then he hands her to me. And that transfer of energy is real. And vice versa, if she’s not taking to me or my energy, I pass her off to her dad and it goes better. So it’s all an experiment.
A lot of baths. I love a good bath. I do feel like the water takes off all the fire I tend to have— I’m a Leo after all and have a ton of fire in me. I’m just go, go, go. The water always kind of cooled me off and calmed me down. I feel like I’ve transferred that to Nora as well. That’s just another activity we love to do together is take baths. Self-care is a constant work in progress.
Advice for new moms?
Know that it’s okay to ask for help. In the beginning, the first few weeks, I think we tried to do it all. And even though my parents were here and they would constantly be over doing things for us, bringing over meals, I would always still have that trouble asking. The words would never leave my lips— ‘Can you help?’ So I think it’s important to know that it’s certainly okay to ask for help, whether that is from a family member, a friend, or somebody in your community. I know not every support group looks the same.