To say Elaine Welteroth wears many hats would be an understatement. From her role as a judge on Project Runway to her Ask Elaine advice column with the Washington Post, the New York Times–bestselling author knows a thing or two about being booked and busy.
But for the media trailblazer who made history as the first Black editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue in 2016, there's no greater title than that of being a mother.
"The biggest blessing of motherhood, for me, has been that I not only love my child — but I like him," Welteroth tells Yahoo Life.
Welteroth welcomed her first child, Silver Isley, in April 2022 and recently threw him a first birthday party inspired by Coachella and Soul Train.
"My baby had the time of his life. And he did not cry once. So that was a major accomplishment for me as a mom," she says.
But of course, motherhood is not all birthday parties and "Baby Soul Chella" vibes. That's especially true for Black women, for whom maternal death rates continue to rise in the U.S.
"As a Black woman, I felt the gravity of the decisions I had to make along the path to motherhood, because your decisions can be life or death," says Welteroth.
Welteroth has been vocal about her decision to utilize a midwife for her labor and delivery process, a choice she made after a slew of negative experiences left her feeling disempowered as a new mom.
"I came to a crossroads where I recognized that the questioning, vocal, advocate I have always been ... I felt that side of me shrinking," the journalist says. "I felt that part of me becoming silenced, in the context of some of these negative experiences that I was having with doctors." Welteroth says she was on a "scary path" to losing herself and the traits that would make her a "fierce mother."
"I had to save myself. I had to reclaim my agency over how I wanted to enter motherhood," she says.
And despite what her expertly curated Instagram or her never-ending list of professional accolades may lead fans to believe, Welteroth says the whole process of motherhood can still be "dizzying" at times, even a year in.
"It is still surreal that I have been entrusted with this massive responsibility. But at the same time, I have given myself permission to have fun with this process," she says, adding that being a new mom has allowed her to flex some new self-empathy muscles.
"It's been a really long time since I've felt like a complete newbie at anything," she says. And while moments of self-doubt seem unavoidable, she has found a new capacity for grace by becoming her own "biggest cheerleader."
"You become kind of like your own big sister in the process. I know better than anybody what I went through to bring this child into this world and the last thing I deserve is to beat myself up about any decision that I make along the way," she says.
But for many mothers, self-advocacy is only half the battle.
"I came through the gates of motherhood, feeling so triumphant. But I'm so clear that the reason for that is the support that I have," says Welteroth, who laments the importance of tangible resources for mothers on the brink of burnout.
"I want to do whatever I can to make more support available to more women, both in the form of information that we so desperately need and don't have access to but also tangible financial resources that we need in order to make better decisions for ourselves and for our families," she says.
And with her latest collaboration with PureLeaf for their "No" Grants Initiative, Welteroth is doing just that.
"This initiative is not just telling women to say 'no' more. That is only so helpful when you are in a state of overwhelm and you don't have the resources to outsource any of your responsibilities," explains Welteroth.
Pure Leaf will be offering a total of $400,000 in grants for mothers so they can say "yes" to the things that serve them. Grant applications open up on May 9, 2023.
"There are so many women that are in this position where they're on the brink of a breakdown or on the brink of feeling totally overwhelmed," Welteroth says. "And I want to catch them before they spiral into a negative place and help them reset, recalibrate and reroute so they can be the moms that they want to be and show up for their families in the best way possible."
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