Leslie Schrock is an investor and entrepreneur working at the intersection of health and technology. She helped grow Rock Health, a startup accelerator and venture fund, from an idea to a globally-known firm. Her first book, Bumpin’ (Simon and Schuster) is a modern guide to pregnancy, from conception through postpartum. When she’s not writing, Leslie spends her time with startups improving the way we live. Leslie was named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, and her work has been featured in publications including NPR, Time, GQ, Entrepreneur, Wired, and The New York Times.
Tell us about Bumpin’
My own challenging journey starting a family inspired me to write Bumpin’. After sixteen months, two failed pregnancies, and an unexpected C-section before my son entered the world, I realized pregnancy was much more complex than I imagined. And not for the reasons I expected. And if it was this confusing for someone with a decade of experience working in health, what was it like for everyone else?
Bumpin’ was written in real-time during my pregnancy. It combines the latest clinical research with practical advice sourced from doulas, ob-gyns, midwives, therapists, lactation advisors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and pelvic floor therapists with a dash of my experience to provide the information you need without the detail you really don't.
You have a background in healthcare, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I was part of the founding team at Rock Health, a startup accelerator turned venture firm supporting companies at the intersection of health and technology. Ten years ago when it started, there was almost zero attention in women’s health as a sector. Fast forward and it’s a soon-to-be $50B industry providing support for families around the world.
Today, I work mostly with women’s health startups improving access, care, and outcomes with great design and outside-in thinking. For example, Origin is tackling pelvic floor physical therapy and Maven provides telemedicine appointments with diverse practitioner types. I have talked to and worked with hundreds of startups over the years, and my work spans fundraising, hiring, storytelling, company identity, and press and communications. You can read more about my work in this feature by First Round Capital.
Bumpin’ is your first book, why did you decide to write a book about pregnancy, who is it for, and what was your goal in writing it?
Bumpin’ is for anyone who is thinking about pregnancy, supporting someone as a partner or friend, or for those in the throes already. I found many pregnancy books to be a bit too clinical and lacking in practical tips, and wanted to inspire more conversation amongst partners and friends, and debunk today’s narrow thinking. After my own experience and speaking to thousands of readers since its publication, I want people to understand that there is no one “right” way to navigate this process. Every body, every family, and every baby is different and it’s up to you to find the right tools for your unique situation and life.
One of the main differences between your book and others is the inclusion of trimesters 0-4 - going beyond the traditional 3 trimesters. Can you talk us through this and its importance?
As anyone who has ever gone through this process can tell you, pregnancy isn’t just about the months you physically carry a baby. Conception and the mysterious postpartum period came as a bit of a shock even to me with all of my research. Miscarriage is incredibly common but not discussed publicly. And since most people do not live in multi-generational households, our main exposure to post-baby bodies and life is through social media, which can be an unrealistic, highly Photoshopped portrayal.
Pregnancy and getting pregnant can be hard. Are there clear issues around the way that society handles the process and how can we improve the way that things are for women and families?
The pandemic has illuminated just how difficult life is for working families and women even in normal times. Now we are asking even more – be a homeschool teacher and work full-time while also trying to be a partner, friend, and by the way, also make time for self-care. Companies and governments, particularly in the US, need to better support families financially and provide appropriate leave benefits. And mom-to-mom, we need a little less judgment and more kindness. We’re all in this together.
The role of men is often downplayed in pregnancy and preconception conversations - is it important to include them more and how can this be done?
Absolutely. Partners are not generally acknowledged during pregnancy outside of their initial contributions. This is problematic for a few reasons. First, issues with sperm are responsible for just as many problems as eggs. So if you aren’t getting pregnant, they should also get checked. Also, pregnancy and parenting are endurance sports. It’s hard to do it all on your own, and pregnancy is a great time to start asking for help. Talking about what types of parents you want to be as individuals and together and practicing open, honest communication is very useful to do before the baby shows up as well.
You talk candidly in Bumpin’ about difficult but important topics including baby loss and infertility. Is it time to be more open about discussing these issues and what help is available to help support families through their journeys and experiences?
Our best guess is that miscarriage happens in one out of every four or five pregnancies, many times before a woman even knows she is pregnant. And as the average age of first-time mothers trends older, we will continue to see the growth of fertility-related issues. It can be difficult to share bad news with friends and family, especially if they are excited. After interviewing several therapists, and going to therapy myself after several failed pregnancies, I’ve learned to be open and to accept that people I love won’t always say the perfect thing. Managing grief is very personal, but the key is not to do it alone.
What advice would you give to women going through their first pregnancy (self-care tips etc.)?
In those last long waddling weeks, I had to remind myself daily that although I couldn’t wait to meet him, once my son came out there was no putting him back. Enjoy every quiet moment, phone conversation sans interruption, and take time with your partner to talk about how you’d like to share responsibilities. Get out for a last date night (or order in your favorite). I am a bath devotee and personally love a soak in Epsom salts with a sheet mask. Staying active was key to my sanity through all of the ups and downs. That could mean a walk, stretching or foam rolling, or something more intense if I was feeling up to it. Pregnancy really taught me to listen to my body.
And what tips would you give to an expectant father?
Your role as a partner is so important from the very beginning. Go in for a physical and change your lifestyle (what you put into your body matters too!), work on your communication, and ask what your partner needs. Offer help – don’t always wait to be asked. Listen. Know that it’s not all going to be perfect. There are going to be some hormonal days. And it may not all feel real to you until you see your newborn child, but it’s very real to her for nearly a year. There is so much pressure on women to make it all look easy so do your best to relieve that and remind her she is loved and valued.
Finally, what do you really wish you knew before you became pregnant that you’d love to share with those embarking on their own conception journey?
No matter what you do, how much you read, or the number of hours you visualize birth or breastfeeding or your unborn baby’s personality, something will not go as planned. And that is not only ok, it’s normal. When and if something goes sideways, don’t let it define you as a parent or ruin your journey. Stay open, be flexible, try not to judge yourself (or anyone else!), and enjoy the ride.
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