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Mom On A Mission

A Q&A with Christy Turlington Burns

—Photo by Nicolas Newbold

Christy Turlington Burns might be known for being gorgeous, but the model turned writer and filmmaker is way more focused on improving the global state of maternal health through her non-profit organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC). We caught up with Turlington Burns to hear more about her new collaboration with Ergobaby, her marathon plans, and life in Tribeca with her husband, actor Ed Burns, and their two kids, Grace and Finn.
StrollerTraffic:  We’re so impressed with the attention you’ve brought to maternal health. Tell us more about EMC.
Christy Turlington Burns: I launched Every Mother Counts in 2010—after I completed No Woman No Cry, a documentary film I made as a result of having complications after delivering my daughter. Grace is almost nine now, so she is kind of a gauge of when I got involved in this issue.

ST: You work hard to raise awareness about how and why women are at risk during childbirth. Before you had a child, were you aware?
CTB: No, I thought it was a very rare event if a woman died during pregnancy or childbirth.  But fifteen percent of pregnancies result in complication. After my experience, I wanted to find out, why me. I wasn’t a high-risk pregnancy. I had a great delivery. I had a great team. I got to utilize every right we have in the west, to pick and choose and to educate myself and to really feel comfortable and supported. And still I had this complication; things progressed in the fourth stage of labor and got very murky, very quickly. When I found out a little bit more, I was shocked.
ST: What did you learn?
CTB:  There was really no medical explanation for what happened to me. At the time—9 years ago—more than half a million women were dying each year due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. That number has come down significantly in the last five years—to 280,000 worldwide. Partly because of advocacy and  awareness; but also improved education for girls, and improved equality in many countries. The film and the EMC platform is meant to get as much attention as possible.
ST: We noticed Tracy Anderson supports your cause. Anyone else helping you get the word out?  
CTB: When I was launching the film, I got an email from Starbucks saying we’d love to support and help you. We did two compilation CDs around Mothers Day ($8 from each sale goes to EMC). They have been a huge help in raising awareness and getting people to make that emotional connection about our mothers. We also work with Lifeway Foods, a supplier of kefir. The CEO is a mom, she had complications. She felt grateful and she makes a great product that’s a natural fit for us.
ST: What about the recent Ergobaby collaboration? That seems to be getting a lot of buzz.  
CTB:  I’ve been a fan of their baby carriers for a long time. A lot of our collaborations have been existing products. This was the first time we did a collection where we got to think about where to source the fabric, and how we got it to connect as a story and bring women together.

ST: So you’re a soccer mom.
CTB: Yeah! Actually that has been really fun. It’s amazing to see a green field right there in Tribeca, by Wall Street and all these buildings. It’s almost surreal. My son is really learning the game now. And my daughter’s on a gymnastics team—three days a week—competing around the New York area. There is a great gym called NYC Elite. She has been going there since she was two.  

ST: Sounds like you’re having a good time raising a family in New York.
CTB: I love raising kids in New York. Our children have such a normal life here— this is all they know. We get out of the city a lot so we have a balance between urban and country life. But I have to say with small kids the City is so easy; there is so much stimulation, so much culture . . . you are not bored, ever. I live in Tribeca, where for their whole lives, they’ve found endless entertainment in jumping over the docking—those stairs, or platforms in warehouse buildings. They would be up, down, around. I feel like it has been such a gift for them.

ST: Do you think you guys will stay in the City?
CTB: We’ll have to see. We take each year at a time. Maybe it gets harder when they are teens, but I am sort of happy they won’t be driving at 16.
ST: Last Mother’s Day, you took a stand on not celebrating Mother’s Day. The criticism was harsh. Was it misinterpreted?
CTB: Most of the press understood what we were trying to do, but they still used the hook. They called it a boycott and it wasn’t. It was us saying every day women die and on the day that we think about moms more than every other day, let’s be mindful of women who have lost their lives. It was to meant to create discussion and start dialogue. If you want people talking and learning, you have to try to get attention. It’s a noisy world out there.

ST: Well, now that you’ve got our attention: how can New York women get involved?
CTB: There are many ways, but one in particular is to organize a 5K run or walk in your neighborhood, in solidarity with TEAM EMC, on Marathon Sunday. Then submit your story on everymothercounts.org and/or the EMC Facebook page. Maternal mortality is a global issue, but with the South Bronx being one of the worst areas statistically, it’s very much a local issue, too.