Being Mama: Karolina Kurková
While Karolina Kurkova’s smile may be lighting up the world, it’s her wit and wisdom that’s changing it. Fiercely passionate about her family, health and work, Karolina chats about what it’s like to be Mama as well as a co-founder of the game-changing herbal wellness company, Gryph + Ivyrose.
As a child growing up in the Czech Republic, Model, Mom and Entrepreneur, Karolina Kurková, would often spend her weekends and summer breaks in the countryside at her grandparents’ house. From a young age, she took pride in helping with the harvest, collecting eggs from broody chickens and spending afternoons spooning homemade jams, pickles and sauerkraut into jars. During these visits, Karolina formed her abundant love of nature, respect for the earth, and gratitude for family, which she exudes in everything she does to this day. Filled with memories of adventure walks with her brother and the vision of her grandfather making his own Slivovitz from the plums they grew together in their garden, Karolina soon added the runways of Milan, Paris and New York to her list of places to travel to and learn from.
Arguably one of the most dynamic women we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Karolina Kurková’s name is known around the world for her numerous modeling campaigns, design collaboration with CYBEX and world-class work ethic, but what we’re really here to find out is what it’s like for her to be Mama to Tobin (10) and Noah (4) on Fisher Island and how she came to co-found the herbal wellness brand, Gryph + Ivyrose, with Rachel Finger and Orion Nevel.
In 2009, Karolina was living and working in New York City with her husband, Archie Drury. For years, she had had a history of hyperthyroidism and constantly felt exhausted, lethargic and emotional. Aware that it was making it difficult to maintain her work schedule and could potentially effect her ability to become pregnant, Karolina dramatically changed her diet, had acupuncture and started using Chinese medicinal herbs to overcome the condition. Sooner than expected, a baby was about to come into the mix.
“While Archie and I weren’t actively trying to become pregnant, we had intentionally been letting our guards down. We knew we wanted to be parents one day and figured it would probably take some time to happen, especially since my body had been out of whack. Turns out it didn’t take long at all! To be honest, the positive pregnancy test was a sign that my holistic approach to treating my hyperthyroidism was working, which I felt like celebrating. Even though I was thrilled that my body seemed to be correcting itself and that I was carrying a baby, I was also experiencing fifty shades of emotions. From OMG, THIS IS SO EXCITING to AHHH, IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME to HOLY COW THIS IS FOREVER. I was scared, overwhelmed and highly aware of how much was out of my control.”
At the age of 25, Karolina was one of the first of her friends to have a baby. Not having many friends with kids of their own as yet, Karolina and Archie began chatting to colleagues, watching documentaries and attending information sessions about birthing techniques and hospital set ups. Then one evening at a party, the couple met an actress who had recently given birth at home.
“We loved her vibe and I really identified with her. This chance meeting planted a seed in my head . Shortly after, I met another actress who’d just had a water birth at home in England. Again, I really admired this woman so Archie and I began educating ourselves on all of the options available in the US. Out of everything we learned, we kept thinking that a water birth at home made a lot of sense for us. I’m a Pisces so I love the water and a child going from water to water seems like a really peaceful way to enter the world. I also don’t really like hospitals because of the smells, the lights and things that you see. However, I am incredibly realistic about accepting medical intervention if needed and am someone that needs all of the facts before making any big decisions. After watching The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth: The Best Kept Secret, we felt like the films had opened our eyes and confirmed our decision to have a water birth at home.
Together, Archie and I met with midwives and discovered just how small the world of midwifery is, especially in New York City. It’s a strange feeling to interview someone to help you give birth, but rather quickly we learned that Miriam Schwartzchild was exactly who we needed in our lives. I’m not going to lie – she’s very New York! I kept wanting her to cuddle and baby me, but at the end of the day, I think it was her straightforward-no-fuss attitude and ability to make me feel like an absolute warrior that made my first birthing experience so wonderful. We also had a doula named Sarah Pancake who we chose because 1. She has a great reputation and 2. I think we secretly just liked her name.”
As parents ourselves, we know that creating a birth plan isn’t easy. Things can change, people offer unsolicited advice and fear can often overshadow our true desires. But Karolina was confident and committed to her home water birth plan. The thing that she loved about it was that it felt like she could have a natural and peaceful experience in the safety of her own home, but have women on board who were constantly monitoring her and her baby’s health. If anything went wrong, medical intervention was nearby.
‘I knew that I was healthy and strong. I hadn’t had any complications with my pregnancy, my hyperthyroidism was at bay and I was feeling energetic. When I finally did go into active labor, things happened really fast. I was actually a little bit confused about my progression because my water never broke and I kept waiting for that signal. I was also in THE ZONE. (Which is that primal state where you’re naked and you don’t care who walks through the door at any point. It could have been Brad Pitt and I wouldn’t have flinched.) You know who I did have time for though? Archie! He had made me this mega green juice because he knew I’d be exhausted during labor, but wouldn’t want to really eat. One sip and I felt a huge surge of energy. Soon after, Tobin, was on his way out and my water broke as he was crowning. From the start of my active labor to Tobin’s arrival, the whole thing was two and half hours. After, we all hung out in the pool and kept the cord connected for 30 minutes so we could let the blood go up and down. I eventually showered while Archie had Tobin on his chest. The whole thing was truly beautiful.
For me, the challenge came when I tried to breastfeed. Tobin didn’t latch well and it was extremely painful. I consulted the midwife, lactation specialists, a friend, and tried every which way to make it work. Even Archie would watch YouTube videos with me and chant, ‘smell it, smell it, take it’ to Tobin in an effort to help him latch. I pumped for six months and then also ended up supplementing with homemade formula. (I know, we’re crazy!) We used barley, goat’s milk, probiotics, omegas and other power ingredients. I’d probably do it differently now because so much has advanced in the past 10 years, but we loved knowing exactly what Tobin was eating and it felt good knowing we got to provide the nourishment.’
Even though Karolina is very much a citizen of the world, she called New York City home for many years. Archie, originally from the west coast, was trying to adjust to the change, but started to feel that he wanted to provide more space and opportunities for Tobin who was now three. After chatting with friends, they heard about Fisher Island off the coast of Miami. Famous for its mix of international residents, postcard worthy beaches and small town feel, Karolina and Archie flew down to check it out.
‘When we toured the school on Fisher Island, we felt this sense of independence and safety that is getting increasingly difficult for kids to find. Anxious for Tobin to grow up connected to the outdoors and to be given an educational setting that will help him thrive, we decided to give it a try.’
When Tobin was six, Karolina and Archie started discussing having another baby.
‘We looked at each other and asked, ‘Do we want to have another one? If we do, we need to do it soon! And like two weeks later I was pregnant. I always get pregnant in February. Maybe because it’s my birthday and Valentine’s Day.’
Par for the course, Noah’s pregnancy was very peaceful. Karolina maintained her love of yoga, walking, spinning (until her bump got too big) and barre classes. She also planned an at home water birth, but this time on Fisher Island. Like Tobin, Noah came super quick. I woke up at 3:30am and thought ‘it’s starting’ and he was born at 5am. The midwife, Mary Harris, and my doula literally made it just in time! Looking back, I find it interesting that I didn’t tear with either of them. I had done a little bit of the vaginal stretching technique with Tobin, but not Noah. I actually remember my midwife telling me not to push. She kept explaining that the baby and my body is doing all the work, so it can be helpful to visualize relaxing more and just letting it be. I know that sounds crazy, but I believe you need to rise above your instincts to push. When you let the body naturally go through the process (without Pitocin), your body naturally releases hormones and endorphins and I felt like the pain was gradual, but it wasn’t something I couldn’t handle. The only burning sensation was the crowning, but it was very quick.’
In an effort to prevent the difficulties she had breastfeeding Tobin, Karolina had a Cranial Sacral Therapist come the day Noah was born to work on both her and and Noah.
‘I learned Cranial Sacral Therapy is really good to do after birth for both the mother and baby because everything is so condensed during birth. It’s also a really gentle way for their jaws to open up wider, which helps with feeding. I was relieved when Noah fed well because it made traveling for quick trips for work so much easier.’
Talking to Karolina is like chatting to a life coach. Her exuberance for life is refreshing and empowering, while her ability to self-reflect and honor her own needs is admirable. Perhaps the greatest thing is how she maintains her confidence, while being approachable. While we love walking down a magazine aisle and seeing her face or scrolling through Instagram to glimpse her gorgeous life, we’re particularly thrilled about her new company, Gryph + Ivyrose.
‘Even before having kids, I was into herbal remedies and a holistic approach to medicine. When I became a mother and started making other mom friends, I realized just how beneficial herbal remedies can be for both kids and parents. One of my friends, Rachel, had her twins at 28 weeks after discovering they had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). Dismayed by the lack of results she was getting from pharmaceutical remedies, Rachel began trying herbal blends and chatting to me about her desire for more readily available herbal options for modern parents. Together with herbalist, Orion Nevel, we created Gryph + Ivyrose. At first, we started with products like probiotic chocolates for kids, but then noticed adults liked it too. Today we make shampoos, body washes, balms, and elixirs for the entire family. Orion says it perfectly, ‘The way we formulate our herbal elixirs and bath & body products is like a symphony. Every ingredient needs to work harmoniously to deliver the ultimate performance.’
Gryph + Ivyrose products are flying off the shelves and into peoples homes because they work. There’s also an element of sustainability that customers appreciate.
‘All of our products are tested by third party laboratories and produced in the US by GMP Certified manufacturers. The labels are made from rock paper so no trees are needed to make them. We’re also working to shift to making our bottles from recycled plastic. We’re always striving to be better, but when you’re a start-up your quantities are so low it’s hard to get what you want until you grow. We are modern parents and these products come from our personal needs. Between all of us founders, we have kids from 3 – 13. We see what the most common things are that parents need help with. We just want to help. Personally, I just want to feel challenged and alive. Everything I do has my heart and soul. I don’t know how to operate otherwise.’