Diaper Brand Coterie Challenges Parenting 'Norms' in New Campaign That Embraces All the Roads to Parenthood
Since its founding in 2018, Coterie has been committed to supporting families on their parenting journey by making diapering easier. Now, the baby care product company has taken a stand against the outdated norms of an oversimplified path to parenthood. With a new "Becoming Parents" campaign, Coterie is shedding light on the fact that not all paths to conception, birth, and raising a baby look the same.
Aiming to tell the stories of a variety of parents and highlight their wonderful—and also challenging—journeys, Coterie posted an emotional short film, The Modern Guide to Parenthood, which shows the realities of trying to conceive and welcoming your child juxtaposed against the antiquated advice expectant parents often hear, like, "Just relax" and "Try, try again."
The brand also released a hardcover book titled Not Another Parenthood Guide, featuring Coterie employees and celeb parents like Tia Mowry and Liliana Vazquez. All the proceeds from book sales will go to BabyQuest, which provides financial assistance through fertility grants for those in need. The book covers all the different ways people have made their way to parenthood—from adoption to fertility treatments to surrogacy.
Here are just a few of the truly moving stories.
Bennett and Malik
Bennett explains how before he transitioned at 30, he had "a significant amount of adult experience as outwardly female." "I mean, I was super gender queer, but an outwardly female identifying person," he writes. "As a not yet self-realized trans person, I never connected to womanhood or motherhood or stories of that sort of thing, because they always felt attached to a gender that I didn't identify with. It wasn't until I transitioned and then started seeing other trans masculine folks who had come before me and who were having kids that I started thinking, 'Hmm, OK.' It wasn't really something I aspired to do then, but it was something I definitely took note of."
He began to think more about his body. "And then I started thinking about all the cisgender men who are with other cisgender men who can't carry children, and how lucky that makes me," he explains. "I think about all the trans women who were assigned male at birth, who can't carry children, and how lucky that makes me."
He and Malik talked about wanting kids early on. The first time they tried was in January 2020, and it didn't work. The second time was in February—and it did. "I spent an entire year bunkered in a townhouse in the valley, being pregnant and riding out a global pandemic," shares Bennett. "Quarantine was a blessing and a curse. I feel like from a safety standpoint, it protected me from potential outside violence as a gender-nonconforming person who is visibly pregnant. It protected me from having a lot of coming-out conversations about my pregnancy in person, which I think allowed people to process it."
He ended up giving birth via C-section. Now Bennett says he wants "this kind of story to be more normalized, so that people stop seeing pregnancy as something that is just attached to womanhood or mothering, because that oppresses a lot of people. It oppresses women who can't have children. It oppresses people who were assigned male at birth, whether they're cisgender or not, who can't have children. It oppresses gender nonconforming cis women who just don't buy into the overly feminized version of mothering that we show in our culture."
When Helaina was in her mid-20s, she thought she'd get married to her boyfriend at the time and have a kid. That didn't happen, because he didn't want kids. She chose to move on, and from that point on, she got highly focused on work and other things in life. "It wasn't until I was 39 that I started thinking about kids again, deciding whether I wanted to freeze my eggs," she writes. "I was struggling with doing it on my own versus finding that soulmate I thought I'd have to do it with. I kept waiting for that to happen and then thinking, 'I don't want to wait anymore.' I was concerned about whether I could make it work as a single parent—that I wouldn't have enough money and time. There are a lot of different emotions that are wrapped up into doing it on your own."
When she was about 42, she decided to just do it. "I started the IVF journey," recalls Helaina. "After five IUIs and several IVFs, I was going to be traveling to India, as well as starting a new job, so I figured it wasn't the right time. I put it on hold again."
Months later, at a friend's urging, she had her doctor transfer the last few embryos. She also set up an appointment with an adoption lawyer. "I decided whatever happens, happens," she remembers. It finally felt like the right time. "It's not that people weren't supportive before that, or that they weren't pushing me," notes Helaina. "I just had to stop making excuses that I wouldn't have enough money to raise a child or that I was too busy."
She found out she wasn't pregnant, while she was also proceeding with adoption. This path led her to her daughter Lyra, who is now almost 5. "Everything is mainly about Lyra now," explains Helaina. "When I'm working at my most demanding times, it becomes difficult. But it's like that for anyone, whether you're single or married. Even if you have a team of support, it's challenging because a child that needs something doesn't understand you're in the middle of something else."
She adds, "I think I've trained myself to know that I'm going to be fine. It'll all work out and, so far, it has. When you're in it, it's like riding a bike. You realize, 'I can do it.' And it's beyond a priority."
Patrice and Kalvin
A child of hardworking immigrants who came to the U.S. from Barbados, Patrice never wanted to get pregnant or have kids when she was younger, because she had spent much of her childhood caring for her younger brothers.
She met her husband in college, and afterward, they bought a house and traveled the world. She was also working long hours in the fashion industry. "I remember one night my husband said: 'How much longer are you going to do this? Because if you're working like this, we can't really have kids,'" writes Patrice. "I started to look for a job that would be more family-friendly, and I ended up at American Express, which is one of the top companies for working mothers."
She got pregnant and had her son about six weeks early because she was diagnosed with preeclampsia on a routine midwife visit. "I was fortunate enough to have a midwife for my first pregnancy," notes Patrice. "It was a lovely, but expensive, experience. I regret not doing it for my second because the healthcare system in the U.S., especially for mothers of color, is just completely tragic. But my midwife really cared about me. Compared to my pregnancy where it was all about 'baby, baby, baby,' she constantly asked how I was doing. Even though I had this really high-risk condition, I felt well-taken care of. I felt heard."
After a dramatic premature birth via emergency C-section, during which Patrice's heart rate dropped very low, the new mom knew she had postpartum depression. "I couldn't stop myself from doing things," she remembers. "I had to be busy all the time. I would feed and put the baby down, and then I would go paint our kitchen cabinets. I should've been in bed resting, but I just felt this need to do something. I felt so useless. I needed to get back to being me."
Eighteen months after welcoming her first child, Patrice was pregnant again. "I never really felt comfortable with my OB, but we didn't want to go the midwife route because, again, it was incredibly expensive," she writes.
At seven months, she asked for a new doctor and found a Black one she felt comfortable with. "The first thing she asked me was, 'How much pain are you in? How are you feeling?'" remembers Patrice. "My old OB never, ever asked me that. The new doctor actually put me on hospital bedrest, where I ended up having the baby about a week and a half later."
In retrospect, Patrice writes that she didn't think her original OB was intentionally racist, but "the experience was racist because she just automatically assumed: 'You are a strong Black woman and can handle pain. We're not going to exert our resources just to figure out what's wrong with you.'" Ultimately, she believes that changing doctors and trusting her gut was probably the best thing that she could've done for herself and her child.
You can read the rest of these incredible parents' stories—and more—in Not Another Parenthood Guide, now on sale at Coterie.