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“Parts of how I define myself have been re-shuffled, re-shaped, and re-prioritized; but it’s been beautiful to grow into this next stage of myself who is blooming into this new role.”
Alexandra Scotland is the new mom who’s got it figured out. New Yorker, advocate, self care proponent and arts administrator, she brings to light the many ways that society needs to catch up when it comes to the wellbeing of mothers, and notably Black mothers. Alexandra shares her motherhood journey in a way that will inspire you to remember that as moms, there is work to be done, and we deserve more.
Alexandra, tell us about you:
I’m a New York City born and bred mama to nine-month-old baby girl, Sloane. I have been building a career in the contemporary art world over the past 15 years and am currently the Studio Director for visual artist Nina Chanel Abney. I am also an independent arts consultant through my organization, Oyster Knife Projects.
What was the most unexpected part of your own motherhood journey?
It’s shocking how little this country cares for pregnant women and mothers, in particular Black moms. The statistics of Black maternal mortality in this country are horrifying - the worst in any developed nation. This was recently amplified by the tragic deaths of Tori Bowie, Kira Dixon-Johnson, and Sha-Asia Washington, all of whom passed away unnecessarily during childbirth. Experiencing firsthand the ways in which pregnant women and new mothers are ignored and almost discarded in segments of American society was particularly painful.
For every micro-aggression and more that I endured, however, I also encountered individuals and collectives working to combat them. I intentionally selected my OBGYN, who, as a Black mother herself, wears a pin every day over her white coat that reads, “Black Patients Matter.” I felt beyond confident being under her care, and when it was suggested that I be induced into labor two weeks early, the deciding factor was the knowledge that she would guide me through labor and would deliver our baby into the world.
It was also so incredible to experience how, unprompted, our tribe of friends and family reached deeply to support us by cooking and cleaning, sending baby clothes and gifts, spending time with us and Sloane in the newborn days that can sometimes feel so lonely. They helped to celebrate with us this new moment of exciting unknown, while unquestioningly supporting all of our decisions along the way.
How does Matrescence’s Mission to “mother the mother” resonate with you as a mom? In your career?
I have been lucky enough to build a community specific to my pregnancy and postpartum journey. Through friends who jumped at the opportunity to share helpful resources, I joined a prenatal yoga, education, meditation, and community workshop through the organization Seed Mother. This is where I was first introduced to the term “matrescence.” Learning the language to describe and validate this transformational stage of life felt empowering and enabled me to reclaim the space and time that I needed to rebalance myself. Another friend connected me with an incredible acupuncturist with midwife training. I began seeing her during my third trimester, and she was integral to my physical and psychological preparation for birth and motherhood. In my nascent stages of motherhood, I was urged by a close friend to join her group therapy session for new moms through Kindred Space, which allowed me to see that so many hurdles that we feel we are facing alone are actually communal.
Throughout all of this, I continued to maintain my mental health through a non-negotiable blocked out hour for my regular talk therapy. That being said, it can be extremely challenging to create time for yourself once the baby arrives. I’m blessed to have a loving husband and an amazing girl gang, all of whom help me achieve self-care by surprising me with spa days and massages, getting me out of the house to do fun activities with friends, and being my constant sounding boards and pillars to lean on during tough times. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of community!
Lastly, I have a lot of admiration and respect for companies who allow the space for employees to also be full time mothers and who treat their employees with humanity, as opposed to part of a profit equation. I knew that I would have to make changes in my career to accommodate my shifting priorities and needs for myself and my baby. I now work fully remotely, and have colleagues who have been incredibly supportive and respectful of my motherhood. There have been times when Sloane has had to make a cameo on Zoom, and that has felt OK, not shameful!
On a larger note, I was thrilled to see that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was recently passed into federal law. As of this past June, in every state in the U.S., pregnant and postpartum workers are guaranteed reasonable accommodations to stay healthy and working, including time off to recover, remote work, flexible scheduling for appointments, etc. - and your employer legally cannot retaliate against you for making these requests. These legal protections are a critical catalyst to further systemic change.
In what ways do you feel your path to motherhood was different or unique?
Interestingly, one thing I kept reminding myself to get through my pregnancy and in preparation for childbirth was how simultaneously miraculous, yet also ordinary, this process is. That my path to motherhood was actually not different from many other women’s and I was not singular in this experience - I was joining a very long line of mothers who have come before me and will come after; that I would be giving birth at the same exact time as many other women across the globe; and that we are all in this together!
What is the best thing you learned about parenting and who did you learn it from?
I come from a lineage of incredibly strong, brilliant, and loving women, including my grandmother, with whom Sloane shares a middle name, and who we very sadly just lost at nearly 102 years old. The sacrifices that she made for her family, and that my mother has made for me, have been formative to my being and my soul. Sloane and I are who we are due to the women who came before us. Their determination and resilience are inspiring, and these are qualities that I will pass down to my daughter.
My mom, especially, ensured that my childhood was filled with books, museums, music, sports, friends, and she exposed me to the melting pot of cultural diversity that New York City has to offer. Most importantly, she was a safe space and gave me the security of knowing that I would always be loved, protected, and championed by her, all of which I hope to impart to Sloane.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being a mom, and how do you manage it?
I struggle to set boundaries and ask for help. I’m still learning how to listen to my body and answer its call, though this has become more mandated through the sheer physicality of pregnancy and motherhood. I’m learning to embrace my changed body that not only grew and birthed a human, but additionally has sustained her every day of her life through breastfeeding. It is definitely a challenge for new moms to extend ourselves grace and giving ourselves forgiveness.
When someone looks at you as a mom, what do you hope they’ll take away about parenting?
That it is alright for there to be several iterations of the ‘you’ who can co-exist. Parts of how I define myself have been re-shuffled, re-shaped, and re-prioritized; but it’s been beautiful to grow into this next stage of myself who is blooming into this new role.
It’s beyond description to feel your heart deepen and expand with each of your baby’s milestones, personality shifts, babbles, smiles, and giggles. Motherhood truly is the greatest gift and the best adventure. Mothers contain multitudes.
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