Babba, Founder Of Ceremonia On her baby's early arrival and NICU homecoming.

By Colleen Crivello

With a smile seen from a million miles away, Babba, founder of the new Latinx haircare line, Ceremonia, recently became a mom to the sweetest Alma.

Just before her daughter’s unexpected arrival, we hung with Babba while pregnant. Here, this mega-watt mama shares the story of her 5-week-early delivery and the joy of her daughter’s homecoming from the NICU. Plus, breastfeeding between Zoom meetings, prioritizing a full night’s sleep (believe it or not), feeling powerful through pregnancy, recovering postpartum, and juggling life with a newborn and a new business.

It’s been a whirlwind month…how are you feeling? 

All things considered, from Alma’s early arrival to launching a company while she was in the NICU and the anxiety surrounding the election, I feel nothing but gratitude and an overwhelming sense of joy for this crazy ride we call life.

Alma came much earlier than expected, just as you’re about to launch your new brand Ceremonia; what’s your birth story, and NICU experience? 

Alma decided to surprise us 5-weeks early, and I have a sneaking suspicion she did that only to remind me I’m not in control and ultimately, life has a plan of its own. Case in point, I had “planned” to launch my company about a month before the baby was due, which, in theory, would have given me a solid four weeks to get everything off the ground before going into labor. But as they say, the best laid plans…

Out of the blue, I started having contractions on Sunday evening, October 11th. Without realizing I was having contractions, I figured it was merely “pregnancy discomfort” after a weekend of not-so-healthy eating. However, when the pains continued throughout the night and into Monday morning, my husband began to worry, so, he texted our doula. She responded, ‘I think Babba is in labor.’ What!? How could that be? I was only 35 weeks, and we hadn’t even packed our hospital bag yet! Hilariously, my husband started stress googling what to pack while running around the apartment, gathering our things, and figuring what to do with our dog.

Because I had prepared for birth through HypnoBirthing, I remained surprisingly calm throughout, although part of me was probably still in denial. I kept breathing through each surge and took it moment but moment. By the time we got to the hospital, I was already 8.5 cm dilated! The doctor looked at me with a big smile and said, ‘Mrs. Rivera, I believe we are delivering your baby today!’

From there, everything escalated quickly, and I had the most beautiful birth experience. I went into my own body and fully connected with myself and the baby, without external stressors. I was entirely focused on my mind/body connection, as I trusted my husband, doula, and the doctor to handle the rest.

Once Alma was born, they placed her on my chest and I was in total ecstasy. I remember looking at my husband through happy tears while shaking out of pure joy.

I was in total bliss until three hours later, they suddenly came into the room, told us they were worried she had fluid in her lungs, and they had to take her to the NICU. I’ve never felt so heartbroken watching them walk out the door with my baby, but I also knew deep down that everything would be okay as if protected by guardian angels.

How does it feel to have Alma home with you? 

Pure joy!! The two weeks she was in the NICU felt unbearably long, but they also made her homecoming feel extra special. 

Path to pregnancy?

It happened much quicker than we’d thought it would. I was terrified about pregnancy and childbirth for as long as I can remember, so initially, I was hesitant to go off birth control. However, my doctor had warned that conception could take a while as I’d likely have to wait for my hormones to regulate after years on birth control. Therefore, my husband and I decided I would go off NuvaRing in January but we wouln’t start “trying” until the end of the year. However, to our surprise, we got pregnant the next month in February(!). I firmly believe this has everything to do with the many lifestyle changes I’d made the year before, from stressing less to sleeping better, eating whole foods, giving up alcohol and coffee, and consistent acupuncture plus therapy sessions. In a way, I feel as if I had been prepping my body for pregnancy for an entire year without realizing it.

Pregnant during COVID?

I loved being pregnant! I felt so powerful and beautiful as I watched my body create magic. While Covid-19 has its downsides (i.e. my husband not attending the ultrasound appointments or my mom unable to travel to visit me while pregnant or even now to help with the baby), there have been positives too. That said, early on, I decided to focus on the silver linings of pregnancy during Covid-19. Things like: the fact that travel wasn’t a reality this year meant my husband could be more present and supportive during this phase of our life. Last year, he traveled 180+ days of the year for work. This year, he is working from home and has been a tremendous support. The pandemic also became an equalizer in business. With most people working remotely I could work on the same grounds as everyone else. I didn’t have to cancel drink meetings or company travels because none of that was happening anyway.

Breast or bottle?

Both. Sort of. I’m breastfeeding and pumping; this way, we can exclusively give her breastmilk, but our baby nurse and my husband can help with feedings. Doing this allows me to get a full night’s sleep, which is very important to running/managing a startup simultaneously.

Ah-ha moment to launch Ceremonia?

The idea for Ceremonia first came about last September, while traveling for Fashion Month. Once again, I was reminded how often I was the only Latinx represented in these settings and how incredibly overlooked Hispanics are despite being the largest minority group in the U.S. 

Keen to honor my heritage, I began researching the U.S. Hispanic demographic. The deeper I dove into my investigation, the more I got fired up, and the more apparent it became how massive yet underrepresented, and misunderstood the Hispanic consumer is. More often than not, marketers seemed to categorize this demographic based on old data, but the reality is, today’s Hispanic consumer is mostly young, early adopters. Plus, Hispanics spend 46% more on hair care products than non-Hispanics and are among the youngest demographics in this country with a median age of 27 and a purchasing power on a steady uprise.

I just knew it was time to do something big in this category, and it fills me with such purpose to know that I’m potentially paving the way for future Latinx-founded businesses to come.

I know it’s early, but as a working mama how do you envision balancing your new roles, both as the founder of a start-up plus a mom?

The pandemic has been somewhat of a blessing in this regard; it’s allowed me to work from home on the same basis as everyone else while also being able to breastfeed in-between meetings. Based on this, in the future, I plan to split up my work-week to be remote half of the week and in our office the other half which will give me the best of both worlds. I thrive off those around me and love getting dressed for a day of meetings and brainstorming with my teammates; I look forward to doing that again whenever it’s possible. I also hope to be able to have my mom come here soon to help with the baby. Getting help from either family or a nanny is crucial for my husband and me; we both love our jobs and aim to cultivate our professional identities as well as our parental ones.

Read through pregnancy?

Yes, I read a lot while pregnant! The first book I read was Bumpin’, a super informative and uplifting, step-by-step guide to pregnancy by trimester. Navigating pregnancy can be somewhat overwhelming, and having this book was comforting. Another favorite was Marie Mongan’s book Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method, which helped me prepare my body for labor as well as my mind-body connection.

Listening to?

I was hyper selective about what I listened to while pregnant and actively avoided ‘crazy’ stories to keep a positive and focused mind around childbirth and HypnoBirthing. Therefore, I mainly listened to Marie Mongan’s HypnoBirthing practice audio files, one called Rainbow Relaxation, and the other called Affirmations. The Affirmations became my daily mantra, and the Rainbow Relaxation became my sleep ritual.

Wellness hacks during pregnancy?

I’m glad I kept active during my pregnancy, as I believe it played an essential role in my labor and postpartum recovery. I had a weekly session with a personal trainer at FPC who put together a 30-min workout for me based on my pregnancy. We would record over Zoom so that I could do it independently throughout the rest of the week. I also went to Flower of Life Chiropractic, who specializes in prenatal care by preparing the body for the altering biomechanics. This process eliminates tension in the body to allow the uterus to expand with the developing fetus while maintaining the space in the pelvis necessary for a natural vaginal delivery. 

Tips for pregnancy dressing? 

1 Big flowy dresses you can wear post pregnancy too! 

2 Long-sleeve tight-knit dresses are super cute with a growing belly, like the cream Claudette turtleneck dress I’m wearing above.

3 Add a blazer to any pregnancy dress for a more elegant and polished look.

4 Balance your look, if you go for an oversized dress, make sure to show some leg with it so that you don’t disappear in the clothes. 

5 Show off that belly bump! I love pregnancy clothes that accentuate the bump. 

And tips to post-birth dressing too?

Not too much as it’s still so new for me! But, what I can say is stock up on cardigans and shirts with front buttons. Basically anything pullover is a big no-go right now with the ongoing breastfeeding schedule. 

One hope for the next generation?

We’ll see the end of systemic racism. 

Lastly, any advice you can leave us with? 

Remember, we have the power to decide from which lens we want to see our own life. Don’t get stuck on the negative. Instead, focus on the positive, and allow yourself to enjoy being in the now. Our minds are extremely powerful; nurture them with positivity and kindness.