Being Mama: Emma Heming Willis
As the mother of two girls and the CEO and Founder of CocoBaba, Emma Heming Willis is a busy woman. She’s also refreshingly honest, effortlessly charming and deliciously witty. For our Being Mama series, Emma opened up about what it was like to have her birth plan derailed (twice), how she makes every second of every day count and why she truly doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
Emma’s alarm buzzes at 5am. With only 90 minutes until her kids wake up, she’s up planning her day, responding to work emails and taking full advantage of her ‘Morning Person’ personality. After taking her daughters, Mabel and Evelyn, to school, she hits a spin class, comes home and continues to work until she picks up her girls and rushes them around to their beloved after school activities.
Inspired by her first pregnancy, Emma, founded CocoBaba, a completely vegan, organic and all natural coconut oil body care line for mothers. With more than 20 years of experience in the beauty industry, Emma was dismayed when she first became pregnant and the hormones wreaked havoc on her skin. After trying numerous products, she went back to a basic both her own mother and grandmother swore by – coconut oil. Feeling and seeing the results from her homemade salves propelled her to think bigger and thus, CocoBaba was born.
But before the birth of her business, Emma had to work a little bit harder to start a family of her own.
“When my husband, Bruce, and I were ready to start trying, I read the most incredible book called “Taking Charge of your Fertility.” It covers the nuts and bolts of how our bodies work. I’m embarrassed to say that then in my 30s there was still so much I didn’t know, especially about getting pregnant. In all fairness, I spent my whole life trying not to get pregnant! I had that down to a fine science.
This book was basic and written in layman’s terms, which I so appreciated. I would take my temperature every morning to track my fertility. I felt like a scene out of “She’s Having a Baby” when Elizabeth McGovern says “Honey, its time, its time!!” Clearly not super romantic but it got the job done, twice.”
Emma suffered terrible morning sickness for the first four months with both of her girls. She lost weight, became extremely stressed and turned to acupuncture, which really helped. As someone who likes to seize the day, feeling so depleted and ill was not ideal. Luckily, the waves of nausea passed and Emma could focus on developing a birth plan with the help of her caring doula and a highly respected Los Angeles OBGYN.
“My “perfect” birth plan included labor at home for as long as possible. About an hour into labor I thought I was ready to give birth. Our doctor told us to head to his office, which was down the street from where we lived. I told Bruce that I was sure I was going to have our baby in his office. ‘Bring the hospital bag!’ I yelled. I mean, the pain and its intensity was at a 10. When we arrived at his office, he checked me and said, ‘Emma, you are a half a centimeter dilated. Head on back home, it’s going to be a while.’
I was floored! Like WTF! I always thought I had a very high pain threshold. I was clearly wrong. An hour after getting home, I’m vomiting and shaking. I looked at my mom and husband and said, ‘I think we should go to the hospital because I don’t want to become dehydrated.’
But in my mind, all I’m thinking is, I NEED AN EPIDURAL STAT.
When we got to the hospital, I explained my new epidural birth plan to my doctor and he responded, ‘Emma, you wanted a natural birth, you’ve got this!’ I turned into the devil with that low scary exorcist voice and said (excuse my language) “F*ck a natural birth! Get over here and jab a needle into my spine!’
My first daughter, Mabel, was more than nine pounds and I have to say that if I hadn’t have opted for that epidural and had to manage labor for that long, I would have ended up with a c-section. There would have been no way I would have been able to push her out! The epidural was heaven sent.
My advice is, have a birth plan but don’t worry if it doesn’t go as planned. What’s most important is getting you and the baby through the process safely, in whatever form that takes.’
When asked about the birth of Emma’s second child, Evelyn, Emma explained that she had the same drug-free and natural birth plan in place, but that after her second contraction she looked at Bruce and said, ‘Yep, feels just like the first time’ and off they went to the hospital to have an epidural.
When you speak to Emma and watch her move through her day, you can’t help but think how fit and healthy she looks. Curious about her diet and fitness routine, Emma shared that she was particularly conscious of her nutrition throughout her pregnancies.
“I worked with a nutritionist (whom I still consult to this day) who prided herself on helping babies have healthy birth weights and creating beautiful brains in utero. That meant more protein for me and fish oils to help brain development, amongst other foods and vitamins. The end result: I had two big bouncing health babies….that have changed my vagina forever!”
The other post-pregnancy change Emma experienced was the Baby Blues, particularly after having Evelyn. Emma admits it took a full year for her to feel like herself again.
“I was upset and emotional about everything. What was really surprising was after the birth of my first child, healing was pretty intense. I had second degree tearing so I shuffled around for about two or more weeks! I could hardly stand up straight! No one really prepared me for how uncomfortable and painful my recovery would be. But my doula really had some wonderful tricks to provide some comfort during that time.
The thing about recovering after baby two was that I didn’t have as much time for self-care during my second pregnancy as I did the first time round. I was just so busy trying to provide love and attention to Mabel that self-nurturing time wasn’t as available the second time round. Perhaps I should have made it more of a priority.”
Today Mabel and Evelyn are seven and five and keeping Emma and Bruce on their toes. With school and work schedules being jam-packed during the week, the Westchester based family feels their weekends are sacred. They often spend time in New York City where they love long lazy plays in the park or visiting a museum. The couple also shares parenting roles equally and with the same passion.
“Healthy boundaries are so important and what Bruce and I have established seems to fit well within our family dynamic. I think that we try to lead by example, which has proven to work really well with our children. Setting those boundaries is a balancing act. You want to allow them to evolve as individuals but children require boundaries and rules. They will test you and you have to be ready to establish limits. They need to be clear on the hierarchy; you are the parents, they are the children. They innately appreciate those boundaries, which in return make them feel safe and loved.”
When asked about the biggest change in her life since becoming a mom, Emma explained, ‘I’m not as selfish as I used to be. My kids are my first priority and considered first before every decision that gets made in my life. However, I still have dreams and aspirations. I’m actually really proud of the woman I’ve become since entering motherhood. When you have children, there is no time to dilly dally around. There are only so many hours in the day and when you are juggling a family and career you have to make every minute count, and I really feel I do that well.
I’m also acutely aware of how worried I’ve become. Before having my children, I didn’t really have a care in the world. Well, of course I did, but the way I thought about life then is far different from how I feel about it now. I’m far more concerned about our world, life and how fragile it can be. Unfortunately, I feel I navigate life in fear at times in order to keep my kids, my husband and myself safe. I can’t say that’s a healthy way to live but I am working on that. The thing is: when you have been faced with real tragedy in your life, anything less is totally manageable. A tragedy will put life into perspective very quickly so as my mom would say, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’”
The thing we love about Emma is how open and honest she is about not loving every stage of pregnancy, needing to adapt her birth plan and how she continues to aspire to be the woman she’s always dreamed of being. She has an energy that you can feel and outlook on life that makes you instinctively smile.
Emma’s Tot Edit:
Must-Have Products For a New Mom
Milkbarn Organic Bib
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Jem & Bea Lola Tote
Any new mama who’s ever struggled to find a diaper bag that actually looks like something we’d carry in real life will fall in love with Jem + Bea’s Lola Tote.
Jem & Bea Lola Tote
Ergobaby Cool Air Mesh Baby Carrier
Ergobaby’s all-in-one, newborn ready Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh has all the carry positions plus ultimate ventilation to keep you both cooler.
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Invented by a Swedish doctor, the NoseFrida is your go-to natural, hygienic baby booger buster.
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Medela Freestyle Breast Pump Deluxe Set
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Check out CocoBaba
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