Parenting & Baby
Conscious Mothering with Bess Piergrossi
We talk to Bess Piergrossi of Hitchfoot Farm flowers in Maine about welcoming her new daughter Beppa into the world in the most conscious ways possible.
“My journey to motherhood has been long and hard, filled with wavering doubts about myself and my body. Being a mother has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but it was a very abstract thought, until I was told I was infertile, and then it became very real.”
First of all, can you tell us a bit about your journey to motherhood – did you have any rituals or routines that you practiced during your pregnancy?
My journey to motherhood has been long and hard, filled with wavering doubts about myself and my body. Being a mother has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but it was a very abstract thought, until I was told I was infertile, and then it became very real. I knew I wanted to be a mom after watching the cows give birth at the dairy barn. Watching these cows become mothers, and how instinctual that shift was, how nurturing, how rooted in all beings that journey is, made me feel like I wouldn’t want to spend my time on earth without experiencing that shift. But we learned a hard lesson quick, that you don’t always get to choose this. After trying for two years to get pregnant and failing, I was told I was infertile. I no longer got to choose if I wanted to become a mother- my body made that choice for me. What comes with that? Grief. Anger. Sadness. Desperation. They were dark times. I am unbelievably fortunate and forever grateful that my work offered fertility benefits. We went through two painstaking rounds of IVF, which is a ritual in and of itself. Shot after shot of hormones, pills, procedures, tests, but 6 months later, I was pregnant. I was lucky enough, to finally be pregnant. In terms of rituals or routines- I’m a huge fan of acupuncture- with the right practitioner. I’m sure it had physical benefits that assisted my pregnancy, but emotionally, it also did wonders. I had deep, profound thoughts and meditations on that acupuncture table that connected me to motherhood. On a more surface level, rituals like dancing, letting the baby hear music I liked, and letting her feel my body moving to the beat, that was always important to me. Watching baseball at night— this wasn’t necessarily specific to my pregnancy, but having something consistent to look forward to, daily, helped me stay present in the pregnancy.
What were some of your preparations for the arrival of your daughter that felt very personal to you?
It always goes back to the cows for me. Ha. I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s true. Watching the bull trying to impregnate the heifers when we we were trying to get pregnant, and once I was pregnant, I could finally relate to how uncomfortable the pregnant cows must also be- no wonder they were laying down. And then watching them give birth- their strength, just pure strength, and fear, and pain- you can see it in their eyes when they are in labor. And of course watching them become mothers, how they call to their babies, watching the baby calves nurse in the field… watching this process and cycle just made me feel like I had everything I needed within me to go through this journey. Watching this cycle is why I wanted to become a mom, and getting to go through it with them was a gift. Also— sewing. My version of nesting was sewing baby clothes for Beppa. Creating something for her, with my hands, that she would wear and have forever, brought me so close to her before she was even here. It was a way for me to express in a tangible way that I was ready, that I loved her, that she’d be taken care of.
Did you have any particularly sustainable things you did throughout pregnancy?
I tried to remember that everything is temporary- and I didn’t need to consume to get through it. There’s a lot of marketing out there directed at having a baby. Once the social media algorithm finds out you’re pregnant, you’re bombarded. It’s easy to think “I need that”. It’s meant to target new moms, people who don’t know if they need that or not. “Do I need a hospital gown dress? Do I need a kangaroo carrier shirt?” It can be hard to navigate. In terms of consumption- I probably made things harder for myself than they had to be. I tried to avoid buying almost anything, I just wanted to make do with what we had. We also did not create a registry, as I didn’t want to accumulate things we didn’t need, and I didn’t know what we needed yet. I wanted to wait until she was born to make those decisions. That was a helpful strategy, and a difficult one at the same time. I’m not sure if I would recommend it. It was probably a little too extreme. It was also important for us as a family to talk about what sustainability meant to us moving forward. Not just what we consumed, but in a larger sense. We tried to plan how to make our future sustainable as a family unit. What would our job situations look like, childcare, hobbies? We spent a lot of time talking about what we envisioned for our future, that would be sustainable for us as a family, and leave room for us to all grow.
After the birth of your daughter, how has your outlook on the world changed?
First off, there’s more beauty. which I feel so lucky to have. I stare at the color of her hair, or notice the temperature of her slobber when I give her a kiss- I feel very in-tune with my senses when exploring our world together, and I find that beautiful. But I’m experiencing that while feeling these intense feelings of bliss and gratefulness I’m also experiencing sadness that this moment will end, or change- I’m fearing time passing. What I’m learning about the world now is that there can be two truths. Becoming a mother has made all things possible. I can feel great happiness, and intense sadness at the same time. I can feel exhaustion and exhilaration. Triumph and defeat. I could go on and on. The world is not black and white- it can be beautiful and ugly place, and that feels liberating, and scary. For me, and for Beppa.
What has been the most difficult aspect of new motherhood?
All of it. And I mean it. I knew motherhood was hard. People tell you motherhood is hard, “It’s the hardest job there is”. You just can’t comprehend what that means, until you’re in it, and I was blown off my feet by how difficult this is. The adjustment is extraordinary, in all regards. The thing that’s been most difficult for me though, has been my inability to pause. As a new mother, you’re balancing boredom and overload. There’s a million things to do, and nothing to do. In my down town, or I should say Beppa’s down time, I find myself being lured back to the things that I used to do when I was alone, before baby. Projects— artistic pursuits. Before baby, doing these activities would calm me, but I’m slowly realizing that now’s not the time for me to be keeping busy with projects. I’m finding the things I used to love to do for self care purposes now feel exhausting, so it’s time to take a break, and that is way easier said than done. Letting go, or pressing pause, has been the hardest part.
“What I’m learning about the world now is that there can be two truths. Becoming a mother has made all things possible. I can feel great happiness, and intense sadness at the same time. I can feel exhaustion and exhilaration. Triumph and defeat. I could go on and on. The world is not black and white- it can be beautiful and ugly place, and that feels liberating, and scary. For me, and for Beppa.”
What has been the most wonderful aspect of new motherhood?
A new found trust in myself. I trust my gut now more than ever before. Once I had a baby, and a new life was 100% dependent on me, I found some peace within myself that I knew what to do, and to trust my instincts. That has translated not only into taking care of Beppa, but in other areas of my life. It is very clear to me now what feels right, and what feels wrong, where before those lines were blurry.
How have you looked at things like reducing waste around having a baby?
For us, there is a balance post baby, between making our life easier, and considering things like waste. We try to always live simply, and that helps to reduce waste in and of itself, but learning to choose the easier route, over the hard way, has been extremely important for my mental health. Everything is a balance. It’s important after having a baby to not be too extreme with anything. We use cloth diapers- when it feels good to use a cloth diaper. Not exclusively. Cloth diapers are amazing, I love them, and they reduce waste significantly. 37 billion disposable diapers are thrown away each year in the USA alone. This makes up 30% of all non-biodegradable waste in our landfills. That number is unbelievable, so for that reason, and lots of other reasons, we use cloth diapers as much as we can. But sometimes, it feels too overwhelming to keep up with the laundry, or inconvenient when we’re out running errands, or when I’m just feeling like, at that moment, a cloth diaper is not the best choice for us. And that’s okay. But I’m aware of the impact that making more sustainable choices has, and we work towards that as we can- it’s a practice I can return to more completely when we get in a better rhythm.
Has keeping things organic been important to you?
If you mean “organic” loosely, as in being close to nature, then it’s extremely important. It’s important for me to make sure that our lives unfold organically as we transition into this new chapter, but if you mean “organic” as in “chemical free”— in all honestly-yes and no. We strive for local over organic. We support a local dairy farm every week, but it’s not organic. We participate in a local CSA, since our garden wasn’t up to par this fall, and I’m sure the fabrics I’m using to sew Beppa’s clothes aren’t organic, and that’s okay. Keeping an organic “flow” in our household that feels grounded in nature and our local community has been more important.
How have you incorporated the natural world into her life thus far?
Beppa’s middle name is ‘Fiori’ which means Flower in Italian, so getting to share flower farming with her, even just for a couple months has been a special connection I hope we can continue together indefinitely. Beppa also loves being outside. She had colic, and the only way to soothe her crying was to take her outside. Once she’s outside, she instantly settles. She’s a nature baby for sure. Her happiest moments are undoubtedly going on a walk in the woods with her dad, or going down to the cow pasture with mom and staring at the black and white shapes that walk by. When she’s inside, you can find her gaze almost always staring out a window. I’m grateful nature is something that I know she is truly connected to.
Do you have any eco-friendly tips for new mothers that you can share?
Like I mentioned, I’d encourage cloth diapers! We use Esembly, and they make it really easy, and approachable, and their system takes the guess work out of all of it. I also bought a lot of wool- clothing, sleep sacks, blankets, etc. Wool is amazing for babies- it helps with temperature regulation, keeps them dry, is antimicrobial, breathable, doesn’t need to be washed as often, I could go on and on. These pieces are made of incredible quality, and yes, they are an investment, but it’s something that will be passed down, whether it be to my own next child, or another family after mine. They’ll be here for 100 years I’m sure.
What is making you feel hopeful for the future of the world now that you have Bepina in it?
I’m learning, through deep talks with my own mother, what joy is. Joy is far different than happiness. Joy is more about moments that touch your heart, that shape you as a person, and those moments aren’t always happy, or easy, or fun. This is a new lesson for me, and it helps me frame some of the worries I have about Beppa getting older, as moments of Joy to hold on too, instead of fear. I am hopeful, and certain, that Beppa will teach me all lessons I need to learn in this life, and while some will be hard, and others may hurt, I’m hopeful, and certain, that I will have lived a joyous life, and that she will as well.
Words from Bess Piergrossi @besspier
Photos by @kelleyrileyphotography