Christy Turlington Burns On Parenting Teens, Every Mother Counts, & More
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
Photography by Photos Courtesy of Every Mother Counts and Pamela Hanson
If we had to rank our biggest celeb mom crushes of all time, model and supermom Christy Turlington Burns would surely be near the top. And our crush only deepens with all of the amazing work she’s doing with Every Mother Counts, the organization she created seven years ago to help prevent maternal deaths around the globe. It’s a cause close to Turlington Burn’s heart, after she suffered postpartum hemorrhage with her first child, Grace (now 13), a condition that would have been fatal if she hadn’t received proper and immediate care. Below, the mother of two (also Finn, 11) opens up about motherhood, the newest initiative for EMC, and how she manages to juggle it all and score some “me time.”
Let’s talk Every Mother Counts. You’ve been doing this work for 7 years now. Has the focus changed over this time or remained roughly the same?
“We launched in 2010 as a campaign to accompany my first documentary film, No Woman, No Cry, and to highlight a global tragedy that currently claims at least 300,000 women’s and girls’ lives every year. Back then, the estimate was nearly double. We evolved into a 501c3 non profit in 2012 and established our grant portfolio, which today has grown to include 11 programs in eight countries around the world. We fund three main barriers to maternal health—access to transportation, education, and supplies. So far, we have impacted over 600,000 lives!”
There are so many little ways to improve healthcare for pregnant women around the world. Are there specific initiatives you are focused on? Specific countries?
“Our grants all work to improve access to essential maternity care to end preventable maternal deaths. The leading causes of maternal deaths are the same the world over: postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, infection, obstructed labor, and unsafe abortion. We are currently working with grantees in the United States, Haiti, Uganda, Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, and Guatemala. Access to prenatal care is just the beginning. Women need transportation to access skilled care, before, during, and after delivery in the postpartum period.”
As you mentioned, EMC has impacted over half a million lives. Do you sit back and congratulate yourself on that success ever or just keep moving forward?
“Up to 98% of maternal deaths are preventable, so that number is not enough. There is so much more for us to do, so stopping or pausing to truly reflect is not as critical as continuing to think ahead about how to sustain the impact we have started to achieve.”
How did you come up with the items sold in the Pass The Orange Rose initiative?
“Since the beginning, we have had incredible partners offer to create products to raise funds and awareness for our issue. Mother’s Day is our biggest campaign of the year and a time when people are looking for gifts to celebrate the mothers in their lives. Last year we introduced the Orange Rose as a universal symbol for maternal health and simultaneously launched the Orange Rose Collection. The Orange Rose has inspired more people to join our movement and this year we have over 20 partners with an incredible assortment of Mother’s Day gift offerings. Each product gives back to Every Mother Counts and will help us achieve our goal to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for every mother everywhere.”
How often are you traveling vs. running the business from New York?
“I travel a lot and visit our grantee partners as often as I can, but am mostly in the Every Mother Counts office in NYC. I recently returned from Tanzania where we participated in the Kilimanjaro Marathon and visited two of our grantee partners there.”
When you are traveling to far away places, what are some ways you stay connected to your kids back home?
“We text while I am away and they have traveled a lot with me, so are familiar with many of the places I go. I have always traveled a lot so they are used to that aspect of my work and life. I took both of them everywhere I went when they were smaller. Since they have been in school I take them when they are not in school and schedule my travel around their lives. I have a flexible situation, so can build my calendar around their activities and commitments. I am very lucky in that respect. I hope to bring them with me more in the future. Both have been to Tanzania and my daughter came along on an Every Mother Counts trip to Guatemala last summer.”
Grace is now 13 and Finn is 11. How has it been (so far) raising a teen and tween?
“These are great ages! They are getting more and more responsible and independent but they are still kids. None of us are in a hurry for them to be adults.”
What does one-on-one time with each of them look like?
“My daughter was a gymnast until last year and is also an equestrian, so we have always had a lot of one-on-one around her meets and horse shows. Lots of time in the car driving around NY to these events! My son plays basketball with his dad, but when we are home, we read together, do puzzles together, talk. I love this time with each of them. It is nice that they are older and communicate so well. It’s also nice that you can just be quiet together too sometimes.”
What about stealing away time for yourself?
“My ‘me time’ is when I go for a run or to a yoga class. I try to do at least one of these things each day. The plane has also become time to disconnect and be silent. I crave that sometimes.”
We’re assuming you stay caffeinated! How do you take your coffee and where?
“My first cup of either tea or coffee is at home before taking my kids to school. The second cup is either from Jack’s Coffee or I’ll make it at the office.”
What excites you most about motherhood?
“I love how it connects us all.”
What makes you most nervous?
“I worry that others who are not mothers do not value our role in society enough because if they did then we wouldn’t allow so many of us to die or be denied healthcare.”
How did your own parents influence your parenting style?
“My mom was a stay-at-home mom who had three girls within three years. She was overwhelmed. My dad traveled a lot and had a lot of rules when he was around. I am probably a hybrid. I work and travel and spend a lot of time with each of my kids.”
How has your work contributed to your own motherhood experience?
“My work was inspired by the complications that I experienced during my daughter’s birth 13 years ago. My role as a parent and as a mother is so inextricably linked to Every Mother Counts that I cannot imagine one without the other. I want every woman to survive childbirth and thrive in motherhood, just as I did and am, but in her own way.”
What advice would you give a woman about to have her first child?
“Take time for yourself now, ask every question, explore every option. Be as present as you can at every stage.”
Any tips on balancing a career, motherhood, and a relationship?
“Every day is a new day and with each day there are different sets of challenges. Be gentle with yourself. Nobody is perfect. Don’t compare yourself with others. Be your best self as often as you can be.”
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
“Our Orange Rose Mother’s Day campaign is my focus for the next several weeks. We introduced the Orange Rose last year as a unifying symbol for global maternal health and to serve as a powerful reminder that safer motherhood is possible for every mother. This year we are asking individuals to Pass the Orange Rose by shopping our Orange Rose Collection featuring great partners including Minted, TOMS, and Clare V, and also by sharing our PSA. And on Mother’s Day I’ll be joining the March for Moms in Washington D.C!”
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