Pregnancy is a time of great vulnerability and power. Travel Expert Nneya Richards knows this all too well. A month ago, she brought her baby earthside with her husband Michele. It does not take much digging to know that Richards wears many different hats. In addition to being a mother, she is a writer, stylist, and travel blogger. Her Instagram feed—a vibrant melange of breathtaking maternity photos, homey family pictures and selfies, and travel destinations—tells the story of a pregnancy, birthing, and motherhood experience that is equal parts unconventional and rewarding.
We spoke with Richards about pregnancy, motherhood, and traveling, and her own words confirm the interplay between the three in her personal journey. It is quite evident that she is a woman of great drive, and her journey to pregnancy exemplifies it. Richards and her husband learned she was pregnant shortly after their marriage—a time of major, concurrent changes. “We got married, bought a new apartment, and found out we were pregnant all at the same time – big life changes a lot of people wouldn’t recommend at once, but my partner and I are very ambitious,” she said. And while this alone speaks volumes about the nature of the feat, the conditions leading up to her pregnancy only scratch the surface.
Richards was of “advanced maternal age”—or among the growing number of birthing people who are 35 or older at the time of delivery. The age cutoff is founded on the association between maternal age and risk for genetic abnormalities found in the offspring for birthing people 35 and older. The use of the phrase “advanced maternal age” is relatively nascent—a shift from the former, controversial, “geriatric pregnancy”. While Richards had a relatively easy pregnancy, she is intentional about acknowledging the wide range of experiences. “If it’s scientifically proven that certain complications can arise more often after women are a certain age, I don’t believe in arguing otherwise based on exceptions to the rules. I know someone who had a child in their 40s, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe option for all women in their 40s.”
She is also intentional about underscoring the importance of personal agency, and the conditions that make later pregnancies a more viable option for birthing people in the United States. She expressed that we are observing a cultural shift of women and birthing people getting pregnant at later ages because of job opportunities, financial freedom, choices, and more. As familial dynamics and our labor force evolve, Richards expects the medical profession to follow suit. “With that, the medical profession can and will catch up – it’s not just 20 something year olds having children. There’s more care, more screenings and to me, that’s okay, as long as my baby is happy and healthy.”
The United States’ medical establishment does not just have to catch up within the sphere of “unconventional” pregnancies. Even with a happy and healthy pregnancy, the United States’ worsening maternal mortality crisis loomed at the back of Richards’ mind. These harrowing realities can sometimes muddle the beauty and joy of pregnancy, especially for Black women, but watching her body stand as a “willing vessel” for her baby was in her own words, miraculous.
Richards’ pregnancy is subversive in that it pushes us to reframe our conceptions of pregnancy and childbirth. She continued to travel while pregnant, a feat that enabled her to showcase pregnancy’s innate strength.
“Naturally, I travel for work, and I wanted my audience, my community, to know that I was not stopping. That pregnancy is not an ailment. I wanted to celebrate my pregnancy and I was goaded on by such positive responses in my community. From snowshoeing in Courchevel to snorkeling in Grenada, the Dead Sea in Jordan, I traveled right up until the day it was recommended I not be more than an hour away from my delivering hospital,” she explained. “Many days of my pregnancy I felt stronger and I wanted to show that perspective. We’re not on the sick and shut in list because we’re pregnant. I look at my baby now and think, ‘Remember when we were in Picasso’s chapel in the Cote d’Azur?’ I can’t wait to make memories with her on the outside.”
And as her baby adjusts to the outside, Richards is adjusting to new motherhood with new principles that inform her navigation of her career. Motherhood is teaching her patience and humility and calling on her to slow down—which highlights the tenets of her career. “When exploring other cultures, to me, patience and humility is a prerequisite. Heavy on the humility part. And in terms of slowing down – well that will always be a challenge for me as I want to see and do everything. How I can do that as a mother is now different, but I don’t think limited as I do have a great support system in place. But in the way that caring for a life inside my body forced me to slow down and truly listen to it – take those breaks when needed, not push myself for fear of harm to Blue – I plan to continue listening to my body in this new iteration of my career.”
The title of mother adds to Nneya Richards’ growing list of titles in more ways than one. As she continues to travel the world and embrace opportunities to slow down, she stands as an example of the strength and multidimensionality that pregnancy and motherhood unearth.