What It Means To Be A Mother, With Mama Glow Goddess Latham Thomas
If there truly are, and ever were, real life living goddesses roaming amongst us, Latham Thomas is one. This woman, and her infectiously zen energy, is the embodiment of love, gracious power, and higher connectivity, all via the concept of what it means to be a mother. Since having her son (the famously talented 13 year old DJ Fulano), Latham has dedicated her life to “mothering the mother” (more on this story when you read on!) by starting the extensive site Mama Glow, writing the book 'Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy', and tending as a doula to every woman she can with the given hours in the day. We don’t care where we are, or when we have our own babies, but all we know is that when the time does come, we NEED Latham by our side. Read on for the richest, most loving Mothers Day information you will come across…guaranteed.
What has the whole process to Mama Glow, and to where you are now, been like for you?
Mama Glow really started out of my pregnancy with Fulano 13 years ago. I was recently pregnant and was sort of exploring the landscape of what pregnancy looked like in New York, because I'm from California. I knew exactly how I wanted to do it in Cali. So I was like, ‘Okay, I wonder how I can do that same thing here.’ I expected that it would be super easy to figure out, just like everything else is in New York. I was like, ‘Wow, you can get liquor delivered at 2am, you can get bagels at 3am, surely you could be able to figure this out. I'm sure there's all kinds of resources available to women who want to have a holistic experience. It should just be easy to find.’ But at the time, it was not that way. It didn’t exist.
People have a hard time understanding that the way that we know the Internet today — depending upon it as a life force — just did not exist. There were a few websites, but they were very ugly and inflexible and hard to use, with really scary information. So I went the totally opposite direction and said, ‘Let me just go analog style and look in the phone book.’ I know that's a total relic now, but at the time, that's what you did. I was the first person of all my friends to have a baby, or to be pregnant. So I looked in the phone book and I found the information for this OBGYN, and called her. We had a great conversation and she was awesome. This is October of 2002.
I was like, ‘Great, I would love to come in and schedule an appointment with whatever you do.’ And she was like, ‘Okay, cool, so we have a great slot here for you in May.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, pause. You know it's October, right?’ And she's like, ‘Yeah, and we’re booked until May.’ And I'm like, ‘How are you booked until May?’ And she's like, ‘You know, that's just what it is.’ And I was like, ‘Hold up. This doesn't make any sense. I'm supposed to have a baby in July, if I'm pregnant in October. So you're telling me that I have to figure out the care in between?’ How can you say that to someone at this point in their life? It's the most important time in a woman's life!
That's when a light bulb went off and I was like, ‘I have to figure out how to crack the code on how someone like me figures this stuff out.’ — someone who is living in that Sex and the City generation. At the time, we were growing up on that and we had this mystique about what New York is like, and one of the things I think we can take away from that is that access is something you just feel like you’re privy to, or should be privy to. So when I felt like I was being denied that by virtue of one of the most important experiences of my life, I thought that was a huge red flag. I had to do something about it. So I started to look and see if there was anything that existed that I wanted — where there was hand-holding and somebody to guide you to help you figure out what to eat, how to move your body, where to go, who the best practitioners are, what the best products are, and who the best service providers are. But it didn’t exist.
So, I created what became the rudiments of Mama Glow as a book and as a movement. It started with the consciousness shifting in the way that women talked about their bodes, and the way they walk in the streets. I go out and I’m like, ‘That’s Mama Glow!’ — I see women who embody what I believe is this new cohort or congregation. It’s almost like we’re creating this church — this movement. Back then, I was seeing women who I knew believed in this stuff, so I would talk to them and be like, ‘How come you don’t say out loud that you had a natural birth?’ There was this huge separation on what it was that people felt like they could voice about their experience, because at the time, there was such a movement toward letting the doctor do everything, and getting the epidural.
So now, since my son's birth, there's been a shift in the opposite direction, where you hear about a lot of celebrities doing the same. People are speaking out saying, ‘Oh I did natural…’ or ‘Oh I breast fed for this long.’ A lot of the models, especially because they’re from other countries, are embracing where they’re form and how humane birth is in different parts of the world. Our client base, I believe, has also shifted the needle tremendously.
When you have something inside of you that just lights you up, and it just feels right...you follow the light. I think that each of us is here to punch holes of light into darkness. Whatever it is that we're here to do, it's illuminating a path and people follow and they feel good when they go in that direction. They might get information, they might get inspiration, they might find a place to catapult from from action. For me, it's my intention to advance women in the world, and this particular vessel is through them giving birth, or giving birth to the best version of themselves. So if it's a baby, fantastic, because I know exactly what to do. But if it's something else that they feel is churning inside, then I want to help them figure out how to give birth to that too.
That's what I found the work has really led to — it’s women who are at a precipice and it's usually around family stuff and trying to have a baby or currently pregnant or newly a mother, but also, is about ‘Do I go back to work? I have this business I always wanted to do…’ There might be something they want to push further, and I think we’re living in a time now with the grace of the Internet, where we see how that’s leveled the playing field for women to be able to be great and find each other and build community and feel like they’re not alone in doing a lot of the stuff that just 15 years ago, had you feeling like you were in a vacuum.
Who IS this Mama Glow woman?
I think the Mama Glow goddess is really comfortable in her body. She's crossed a threshold where, with whatever it is she has been fighting or struggling with, she's allowed herself to embrace. At this point in her life, she's embodied it. I think through the vessel of pregnancy, or whatever she's giving birth to, she's just here to say, ‘I'm powerful.’ I think the girl that we serve and the girl that usually gravitates towards us is really health conscious. She eats like Sakara Life, and is drawn towards things like that. She moves her body. She really has a practice of self-love. Even if it's one that is evolving and growing, it's something that she feels tapped into. She knows she deserves to have the life of her dreams. She knows that she deserves to have a pregnancy that she feels empowered in.
I think that there's a varied ability in terms of people who are very spiritually connected and people who just like the idea of owning their power in the process. I see people who are using visualizations and techniques, and then there are people who are like, ‘I just know from listening to my brain and my body, and I feel like I’m supposed to be doing things this way…’ So you have people who are really analytical and people who are really spiritual, along a continuum, that still come to Mama Glow.
I think there's that pendulum, but there’s also that woman who comes and feels like she's going to be honored in her vulnerability, and seen. That's really what we want to help people accomplish — this feeling of being seen and heard and held in their vulnerability. This is a really sensitive process, because it results in all of us. All of us are here because our mothers had courage, right? To give birth takes courage! So if we think about how intense of a process it is to go through, if you've never done it before, you have to trust. It’s like, you don't even know what is going to happen, and yet you commit to doing this thing, and then at the end of that, you commit to caring for this person and you fall deeply in love and you're hard wired to bond and all these amazing things that happen as a result.
To me, it's the most important process. It should be at the top of the agenda, and at the top of all things. I'm seeing nothing particularly talked about in the presidential stuff around families and parenting and motherhood. Who becomes our next generation is going to be determined by mothers. The effect of the mother on the community is huge because she’s the crux of it. I see a trajectory that needs a little bit of backing up and examination of how we’re living, so that we can support women more. I also think that when we can look at what we now have access to, we’re so lucky.
How has your relationship with yourself, and your body, changed over the last 13 years since having your son?
When I was pregnant, I only gained 14 pounds, which everybody was like, ‘How did you do that?!’ But I just did. It wasn’t like I was trying to at all, but I am very tall and have this really long waist so the baby was really comfortable in there and he didn’t stick out far. I do remember the pressure, though — where it felt like people were comparing their bellies and hips. Even in your pregnancy when you’re supposed to be free, you can’t even be free. I did a whole lot of waiting around — I call it “soul scribing” — around this whole thing about our bodies and loving our bodies and how they change.
I had boobs for the first time when I was breastfeeding. Right before my son was born, they got bigger. I remember being like, ‘Holy shit. I finally have boobs!’ I was actually excited about it, because I was like, ‘I wonder what it will look like to have dresses that I fill the cup out in?’ That was interesting. What changed for me though was that once the baby was born, I saw my breasts in a different way. It wasn't like, ‘Okay, pushing them up and getting in this dress is fun…’ It was like, ‘Oh, sustenance first.’ I remember walking down the street and this guy started whistling. I was like, ‘That's milk in there! That's to feed my kid!’ And I was actually pissed that I was being looked at in a certain way because I knew that my body was not a sexualized thing, it was for sustenance.
So I felt really weird at certain points. I was in this interesting space where people were having trouble losing weight, but I didn’t. I lost the weight really quickly and was under my pre-baby weight within six weeks of postpartum. I actually got really skinny, had no muscle, and my arms were so strong because I carrying a baby. Everything was really thin and so by regular standards, I was considered to look great. But where I lived, in Harlem, I was too small and too thin and I felt very insecure about that. And I had no butt. I felt like I looked good in dresses and stuff, but I felt like a lot of what made me look womanly was gone, except for the boobs. The grass is always greener. People are always thinking that there's something that they would like to change.
I think that at the time, my body definitely felt taxed. As much as I enjoyed the time, there's so much that goes into raising a little baby, and at the same time, I was percolating this business, so there was so much more energy also going out into that. Then, I would say once my son got into his school age years, he was three when his father and I separated. I had never really been trying to look good or go out to impress anyone while I was in the relationship, so when I came out of it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I now have to be in this new thing of single motherhood.’ It took a very long time for me to have the confidence to go date. Then I finally did. And when I did, I remember just embodying what I wanted to feel on the date and dressing up. I have a whole thing that I learned over time around adorning myself and the ritual of getting ready. In Yemen, before women go out, they perfume themselves with this water, and it makes an almost incense scent that they go into a circle and dance over as the perfume is coming up into their clothing and their hair. So instead of just running out the door, it’s this whole ritual around just getting in the seductive space while getting ready and then leaving to take the night.
A lot of my self-care rituals and glow time — and what I talk about a lot with moms — all stemmed from that process of really loving on myself as if I was going to have a date. Or, something like just being able to keep flowers in the house as if it were a special occasion — doing things that make me feel good. I like to surround myself with things that look beautiful and inspire me. I really started to do that once I was separated, because I felt like it was important for me to show myself that I love myself, and that I want to attract love by loving myself first.
When you engage in something that makes you feel good, it can really shift the way you relate to your body, the look of your body, and the way you carry your body.
What advice, then, do you give to women who may not have the capacity to do the things that they want on a daily basis?
I believe that body acceptance is really key — getting in the right relationship with your body first. If you can do that before you get pregnant it's great, because if you don’t, it'll come right to the surface when you're pregnant. All the things we have unresolved just hover and become these superficial neuroses that smack you right in the face and you have to deal with them. I'd rather deal with them before, if I get a chance to, with that person. I think another thing too — which I learned over time but constantly teach — is that there’s really no comparison. You don’t win. You can’t look over here and be like, ‘Well she was able to this…’ Because everybody is different with a different body type, different circumstances, different ancestry and different life events happening.
What we do know is that your emotions will govern your hormones, and your hormones decide your body chemistry and the types of foods you're going to crave, and what is going to become your blood, your thoughts, and your actions. I think emotions are the first things that let us understand ourselves. So I just hold up a mirror and I'm like, ‘Okay, let's look at what's going on with you.’ Part of what I do is the holistic health counseling, where we go under the hood. Another piece is the nutritional side and really getting a better understanding of what the things are that really aren’t working in a person’s current diet. And then I think there's a diet of things that we consume, or things that are consuming us, that should totally be taken off the menu.
It's the stuff that does not belong in your life, whether those are relationships or habits that have stuck around way too long. There's all kinds of things that people keep with them that they know aren’t good and maybe they need somebody helping them start the process of figuring out how to let those things go. Or at least, create a healthier relationship with them. Sometimes I'm even signing birth certificates and doing things that would be a familial role. In those cases I'm very close to the mother and the baby afterwards as well.
We do a lot of deeper work, too. I think the biggest key — if moms can trust me on this — is to not worry about losing the weight. Let go of this idea that you have to be a certain size, or that you have to do whatever these people are doing on the magazine covers. Keep things around you, especially reading material, that don’t make you feel bad about yourself after picking up. I'm trying to peel back the layers and be like, ‘First of all, there’s no competition. There's no trophy waiting. There's nothing.’ You put that on yourself, right? It's loathing. Then I would say the other piece of it is, ‘What's in your immediate surroundings? Who are the people? What is the food? What are the conversations? What kind of support do you have? Are you in the city or in the country? If you're in the city, do you have access to go to Central Park or someplace where your mind can just be clear?’
What I find that really works well — and I advise this to everybody — is for the first six to eight weeks, to do nothing. Other cultures do this, like the Chinese, who have 100 days that you just stay chilling, and you don't really leave the house. The baby does not leave the house. The immediate family, the mother, the baby, the father, that nucleus…they all stay home. Everybody brings everything to them — food, water, blessing, gifts, everything. You don’t do anything. There are all these ancient rituals that we don’t really have, but that we can create meaning for ourselves in. What I love for women to do, is connect with a sister circle of supporters. Talk to them, get them on your team. They can help you. Give your body the nutrition of stillness that it needs.
It's hard for women, though, because of the type of lives we lead now. But our primal body wants to just be still. So that's what I advise. Essentially eight weeks of rest. Breastfeeding, water, tons of hydration and whole foods, and really good quality fats. I know for certain that when moms eat like that, they do not have existential stress to lose weight, to look a certain way, or any of that. They are allowed to just bond and be with their babies, like they’re designed to. Because what you’re hanging on to in a lot of these instances has nothing to do with baby weight. Today, we’re just not giving birth that way, and that’s why the role of a doula is so important.
Was the role of a doula something that you came to and learned more about when you were pregnant, or was there an interest in this when you were a child?
You know, it's so interesting that you ask that, because when I was little, I remember so clearly when my mom was pregnant with my sister and then my aunt was pregnant with my little cousin, and my mom's aunt was pregnant with another. So these three women who were such fixtures in my life were all pregnant at the same time, and due one month after each other in March, April, May. My cousin and I are very close, and we got to see that together firsthand. We would hang out together and watch them. We’d put on these dramatic plays of delivering babies. I would put a Cabbage Patch doll under my shirt, and she’d do the same, and we’d just be mimicking what we saw. We didn’t know anything to be scary — it was such a positive thing. My mom would talk about it in such a positive light. So I think that was the seed. Then fast forward to when I was pregnant with Fulano, and I didn't have a doula. I delivered him on 14th St at this place that doesn’t exist anymore.
When I delivered, there were four women — there was a nurse, a midwife in training, my midwife, and then somebody on-call as another sort of midwife. So if I’d also had a doula, I probably would have been like, ‘There’s too many people here, get out.’ I already just wanted to be alone.
I was in a tub and there was a family style bed with a beautiful quilt and it just felt very comfortable. But they leave you in there. And you're not thinking, ‘Where are they?’ I went into it with such confidence, knowing that it was going to be easy because when there’s no resistance, it’s something that your body just wants to do! I didn’t have to coerce. It just does it’s thing with ease. I went in around 9am, and four hours later, I gave birth, and then was like, ‘Oh my god, are you really going to just let me leave with him?’ And they let me leave with him. I walked home that night like around 6 PM.
But all of that was a moment of, ‘If I have a choice — which I do — then I’m helping any and everybody who wants to do this, and do it in a way that they can feel amazing, humane and blessed.’ Because for me to do it naturally and to have all these out of body experiences that happen in the process, I had to have a totally undisturbed process. All of these neurochemicals work together to make this cocktail so that once the baby comes, you have this euphoria.
I felt completely high because of what the brain does to actually create a trance. So you're really just in another world and totally blissed out. You forget about whatever it was that you said. If there was any pain whatsoever, you forget. I was out of my body, and I saw ancestors. I saw the process happening and I could even tell his hair color without actually seeing him yet.
Have you always been so cool, calm, collected? It’s beautiful how in tune you are with yourself.
I have a younger sister and we grew up in Oakland, CA, so we grew up with a lot of Redwood trees and water. I studied with a master herbalist when I was really young who taught me a lot about plants and stuff. And also, at an early age, I got into a kind of rhythm of what many would call meditation. But as a kid, it was more like a game for me. It was about trying to find frequency and vibration in plants. My herbalist would say, ‘Listen to the plants and let me know which ones are ready for picking.’ Then I would just go sit and listen. In that process, I was learning things that are really helpful for me today. In those early days, I felt in tune with nature. But now, living in a place like California — which I really love when I’m there — I don’t feel the same compelling need to work. I can not turn on my computer for the entire trip. I could just do no work because I feel so connected to whatever is happening in the ambient landscape. People are not about pushing themselves to the tilt.
I think that in being here, the balance for me is that I get to help other people find their way to grounding. It also keeps me tethered to do the work. I think we all do the work that we need, right? We want to stay in tune, so we work with people who need tuning — as iron sharpens iron.
I still sit for meditation. These things that we do to keep ourselves spiritually fit, for me, are really important. Just as much as I love to sweat and take a good dance class or yoga, I also think that checking in on what feels good for you is really important. I don’t claim to know what the answer is, but I know that if you feel moved, then that’s your church, and you can find that wherever you go.
What are some of your walls, and how have you torn them down?
I would say I’m so stubborn. I don’t quit stuff and I’m committed, and I’ve been super attached to Mama Glow and the growth. I have a team in LA, and we had a very interesting conversation about a year ago now, where they were like, ‘We really want you to pull out of the day-to-day stuff and start speaking more to a general audience — allow your voice to project because you're so permeating and Mama Glow can’t survive without you being the figurehead.’ I say ‘Okay,’ and after sitting with that, I was like, ‘Yes, that’s my thing! But are you asking me to let go of something that I have built?’ It feels like letting go of your baby. Then I sat with it longer and came to understand that for everything after birth, you have a year of attachment where you’re caring for someone or something who doesn’t yet walk and who can’t communicate except for crying. So I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve been nursing and caring for everything and attending to every need here, and now it’s a time where things are crawling on their own, and then they’re walking, and maybe I don’t need to put my hand in so much anymore.’
So what it meant for me, is that I had to get over it and I had to scale the wall of my own personal growth within the context of the brand, because my son’s 12 now. I had to let go of this idea that you have to always be at the helm, and I realized that I should actually bring in a new leadership and some people who can zero in on amplifying their voices to give rise to a new wave of leaders through the platform. That way, I can actually focus on education and other aspects of things that I want to grow. That was a huge wall, because it was not something that I was thinking about on my own, even though most things that I think about as turning points or pivots are self-initiated. But there I was like, ‘Whoa, I don’t know if I’m ready.’
I'm very resistant to stuff because I'm a Taurus. So if you try to say, ‘We’re going this way…’ I’m like, ‘No, we’re going that way…’ But I just went with it. I trusted, so I explored. And over time, I came to develop a platform that’s coming out soon. It’s this new space that focused on rituals. It’s really beautiful and I’m so excited. It allows me to tell a story that I would say is an extension of a lot of the larger principles that I talk about at Mama Glow, or that I believe in but am not necessarily servicing just to moms. It’s for everyone.
It’s important for me to speak to everyone now. I’m no longer the mom with the newborn. I have to evolve my work and let that be it’s own space too. I had to let go there, because if we hold onto anything, we can’t receive anything. If you’re blocking the blessing of not being able to open up and see the beauty and blessing in things, then what’s to come? But if you can cast your bread upon the water, will it come back, or what will come back?
Another wall has been in love. I had a very beautiful relationship that was almost put at a stand still when my boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer and nearly died. He was very sick for six months. He came on the other side of it, and he's fine now, thank God. But was very, very frail. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t really walk. It was the most challenging thing to be a part of, because you can’t do anything about it. I remember feeling kind of alone in the process because he didn’t really want people to know. But looking back, I say, ‘This was all done wrong, we should’ve absolutely told people so that I could’ve had an outlet, not just for you, but I needed to talk to people because it was so much emotionally.’ Anyways, he came out on the other side of it, and we just got engaged a few weeks ago. He’s healthy. Just coming on the other side of all of that was a huge wall to climb.
What does the word mother mean to you?
I think it just means love. You know, the word mama means suckling, or to drink. The actual act of what you’re doing and what the baby’s getting is liquid love. What’s in the milk is beyond immune factor and antibodies and fat, water, protein, and all that stuff. There are also hormones that communicate with the baby. The biggest hormone is oxytocin, which is a love hormone. That hormone is the same hormone you get when you see somebody you have a crush on and you get butterflies in your stomach that aren’t flying in formation. That’s oxytocin.
You give a hug? Oxytocin. Orgasm? Oxytocin. Then, when the baby is ready to be born and spontaneously goes into labor, what happens is that the baby sends a tiny little goblet of oxytocin up to the mother’s brain, and then the contractions start. So the baby initiates, and chooses it’s birthday. The oxytocin gets the contractions going, and once the baby’s out and has expelled the placenta, there’s oxytocin again to contract the uterus back down to it’s normal size so that you don’t die from blood loss. It goes 500 times it’s normal size to hold the baby, and then goes all the way back. That’s love.
Then what you feed the baby, it’s oxytocin. So it’s just pervasive. It’s love that literally comes out of you. But then you think about everything you go through to do it, and that’s love. There’s no reason why you would choose to do all of that. You’re falling in love with somebody that you’ve never even met. You know what I mean? To me, “to mother” is a primal remembrance of being swaddled in love — to be held and to have a desire to hold. And that could be a baby, a puppy, or nurturing a business!
You have to put in love to grow it. I see so many mothers who don’t even have kids. I’m like, ‘You’re a mom!’ And they’re like, ‘But I don’t think I could ever have kids…’ But it’s like, ‘Look what you’ve given birth to!’ I think that it’s really just a state of mind. I don’t believe that you necessarily have to have your own kids to know how to be a mother. I think that people do that a lot, and they can have this back and forth rhetoric that’s not so nice, but I think that you have to apply your capacity to love to what you do. Whether that's working with kids, or taking care of rescue dogs, or cooking. You have to pour love in, and that's what mothers do. They just pour until it's overflowing.
It’s also about being able to be somebody that draws a line and sticks up for what’s right. Mothers are always the ones to speak to injustices first. Mothers are always the ones that put themselves on the line first. They’re brave.
Mothers are inclusive. All women are, but moms have this sense of wanting to connect, they want to communicate, and they want to gather. Mothers, and grandmothers, gather people. Your aunt gathers people. It’s always the mother who gathers people and brings them back to their roots. That tenderness is what the world needs right now — so much more of it. What I’m specifically trying to do, with everyone that I can touch with Mama Glow, is to make sure that every woman feels mothered and that she learns how to mother herself — that she becomes a very connected mother with her baby.
And I’ll give you one last story, but I was teaching at an ashram a while ago, it was my birthday, and there was this little astrologer — literally little, he was maybe four feet tall. He came up to my sternum. When I met him I had to do a double take to be sure that he was real! He did a puja for me on my birthday, and you know I love rituals. He said, ‘I want you to come and do a reading for you birthday, but we have to wait until three days after it.’ I said ‘Okay,’ and waited until we went to sit down in his tiny hut. He had a little wooden board with all kinds of marking on it — divination related markings. Then he had some shells and sand and other stuff. He started praying and doing his whole thing, and I’m just sitting there listening. Then he comes up and says, ‘Okay, I have some numbers for you, I have some things to tell you.’ I was listening. He said, ‘You’re supposed to mother the mother.’ I said, ‘Okay, well I’m kind of doing that. I have this company and this is what we do…’ He says, ‘Yeah, but you have to take it a step further. You’re supposed to go beyond what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘Okay…’ And at this point I wasn’t doing the doula thing yet.
I took all the dates, and he said a bunch of other great stuff, and I went home and I remember being like, ‘Well, what do I do with this information now?’ I was trying to stay present, but was looking everywhere. I got back to normal in New York, and I don’t remember doing this, but I guess I filled out this fellowship form in a group email — and I never open group emails, much less fill out an application. It’s like it was channeled. I remember waking up a few days later, going through my email, and I had two emails in my inbox that said the same thing — ‘You’ve been accepted to this doula fellowship program.’ I was like, ‘Cool!’ I looked at the date and it said May 15, and that was one of the first dates he gave me. I knew that’s what I was supposed to do. I added that in as a service and that became one of the most pivotal decisions, because it changed the way that I work. It transformed a bunch of lives because I was able to serve so many moms and have so many women speak publicly about their experience working with us and how their babies turned out and all that. If it had not been for the listening, the being able to tune in and really take that information and accept that call, then I wouldn’t be mothering the mother. I think the part of “mothering” too, is that you need to answer the call. You are the one who answers the call.
[Editor’s note: seconds after Latham said this, her phone started ringing. She answered the call. We couldn’t have even faked that…]