The Meaning of Motherhood, With Mama Glow Founder Latham Thomas
THE POWER OF SUPPORT DURING THE BIRTHING PROCESS, THE CHEMICAL COCKTAIL OF LOVE, AND HOW EVERY PERSON CAN ACCESS THEIR INNER MAMA
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 realized through motherhood. Since having her son (the talented teen DJ Fulano), Latham has dedicated her life to “mothering the mother” by starting the maternity lifestyle company Mama Glow, authoring several books on fostering an "abundant pregnancy", and tending as a doula and birth worker to every womxn she can. She's reimagining the birthing process and bringing full-spectrum guidance to those "at the threshold of change in their lives."
The Journey to Mama Glow
Mama Glow really sprouted from my pregnancy with Fulano 17 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. I thought, 'I wonder how I can do that same thing here.’ I expected that it would be super easy to figure out. I thought, ‘Wow, you can get liquor delivered at 2 a.m., you can get bagels at 3 a.m., surely you could be able to figure this out. I'm sure there are all kinds of resources available to womxn who want to have a holistic experience. It should just be easy to find.’ But at the time, it didn’t exist.
People have a hard time understanding the way we know the Internet today—depend upon it as a life force—just did not exist. The websites on birthing were very ugly, inflexible, and hard to use, with really scary information. I went the total opposite direction and said, ‘Let me just go analog and look in the phone book.’ I know that's a total relic now. I was the first person of all my friends to have a baby, or to be pregnant.
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. When I felt like I was being denied ease and support for 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—hand-holding and somebody to guide you through 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. It didn’t exist.
So, I created what became the rudiments of Mama Glow as a book and a movement. It began with consciousness shifting in the way that womxn talked about their bodies, and the way they walk in the streets. I go out and I’m like, ‘That’s Mama Glow!’ — I see womxn 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 would talk to womxn who believed in the movement and ask, ‘Why don’t you. say out loud that you had a natural birth?’ There was this huge separation on what people felt like they could voice about their experience, because at the time, the perspective was to let the doctor do everything, and always get the epidural.
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 breastfed for this long.’ A lot of the models from all over the world are embracing where they’re from and how humane birth is outside of the US. 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 into action. For me, it's my intention to advance womxn 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 womxn 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, it's 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. I think, with the grace of the Internet, where we see how that’s leveled the playing field for womxn to be able to be great and find each other and build community and feel like they’re not alone. Just 15 years ago, had you feeling like you were in a vacuum.
For me, it's my intention to advance womxn in the world, and this particular vessel is through them giving birth, or giving birth to the best version of themselves.
The Mama Glow Goddess
I think the Mama Glow goddess is really comfortable in their body. They've crossed a threshold where, with whatever it is they've been fighting or struggling with, they've allowed herself to embrace. At this point in their life, they're embodied. I think through the vessel of pregnancy, or whatever they're giving birth to, they're just here to say, ‘I'm powerful.’ I think the person that we serve and the human that usually gravitates towards us is really health conscious. They eat like Sakara Life, and is drawn towards things like that. They move their body. They really have a practice of self-love. Even if it's one that is evolving and growing, it's something that they're tapped into. They know they deserve to have the life of their dreams. They know that they deserve to have a pregnancy that makes them feel empowered.
You have people who are really analytical and people who are really spiritual, along a continuum, that arrive at Mama Glow. There are some people who are very spiritually connected and then people who just want to own their power in the birthing process. I see people who use visualizations and techniques, and also those who say, ‘I know from listening to my brain and my body, and I feel like I’m supposed to be doing things this way…’
I think there's that pendulum, but there’s also that womxn who comes and feels like they're going to be honored in their vulnerability and seen. That's really what we want to help people accomplish. This is a really sensitive process. All of us are here because our mothers had courage, right? Giving 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. 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 at the crux of it. We need to support womxn more. I also think that when we can look at what we now have access to, we’re so lucky.
This is a really sensitive process. All of us are here because our mothers had courage, right?
How has your relationship with yourself, and your body, changed 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 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.
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. Where I lived in Harlem, though, I was too small, too thin, and I felt very insecure about that. I had no butt. I felt like a lot of what made me look womanly was gone, except for the boobs. People are always thinking that there's something that they would like to change.
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. 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. When I finally did, I created this whole thing that I learned over time to adorn myself and craft the ritual of getting ready. In Yemen, before womxn go out, they perfume themselves with this water. It makes an almost incense and they go into a circle and dance over as the perfume is coming up into their clothing and their hair. Instead of just running out the door, it’s about getting into the seductive space 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— stemmed from that process of really loving on myself as if I was going on a date. Even something like keeping flowers in the house as if it were a special occasion. 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 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 are more ways we can shift our outlook on ourselves?
I believe that body acceptance is really key, creating 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. Also, there’s really no comparison. You don’t "win". 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 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 getting a better understanding of what isn’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 are all kinds of things that people keep with them that they know aren’t good. Maybe they need somebody to help start the process of figuring out how to let those things go. Or at least, create a healthier relationship with them.
your emotions govern your hormones, and your hormones decide your body chemistry, the food you crave...what is going to become your blood, your thoughts, and your actions.
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. You put pressure on yourself, right? It's loathing.
What I find that really works well—and I advise this to everybody—is for the first six to eight weeks, do nothing. In China, there's a tradition to have 100 days that you stay chilling. The immediate family, the mother, the baby, the father, that nucleus…they all stay home. Everything is brought to them—food, water, blessings, gifts, everything. What I also love for womxn 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.
Our primal body wants to just be still. 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.
How did you step into your role as doula? Was this something you were interested in as a child?
When I was little, I remember so clearly when my mom was pregnant with my sister. Then my aunt was pregnant with my little cousin, and my mom's aunt was pregnant with another. 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 Street at this place that doesn’t exist anymore.
I was in a tub and there was a family-style bed with a beautiful quilt and it just felt very comfortable. I went into it with such confidence, knowing that it was going to be fine because when there’s no resistance, it’s something that your body just wants to do! I didn’t have to coerce. It just did its thing with ease. I went in around 9 a.m., 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 p.m.
All of these neurochemicals work together to make this cocktail so that once the baby comes, you experience euphoria.
[My birth experience] became a moment where I realized, ‘If I have a choice. I'm helping any and everybody who wants to do this, and do it in a way they feel amazing, humane, and blessed.’ For me to do it naturally and to have all these out-of-body experiences that happen in the process, I had to feel totally undisturbed. 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. 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. 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.
The balance for me is that I get to help other people find their way to grounding. It also keeps me tethered. 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’m a Taurus and can be so stubborn. I don’t quit stuff and I’m committed, and I’ve been super attached to Mama Glow and its growth. I have a team in LA, and we had a very interesting conversation a few years ago, 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 Mama Glow can’t survive without you being the figurehead.’ 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. I came to understand that for everything after birth, you have a year of attachment where you’re caring for someone who doesn’t yet walk and who can’t communicate except to cry. I realized, ‘I’ve been nursing and caring for everything and attending to every need, and now 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.’
I had to let go, 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?
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 giving 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 you spontaneously goes into labor, 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 its 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 its normal size to hold the baby, and then goes all the way back. That’s love.
To me, “to mother” is a primal remembrance of being swaddled in love — to be held and to have a desire to hold.
Then what you feed the baby, it’s oxytocin. It's pervasive, it's everywhere. 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. 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 womxn are, but moms have this sense of wanting to connect, they want to communicate, and they want to gather. It’s always the mother who gathers people and brings them back to their roots. That tenderness is what the world needs right now. 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 they learn how to mother themselves.
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