Meet Vanessa of Nessa Knows Best

I'm so excited to introduce our first contributor to Early Mama: the mom behind the new video review blog Nessa Knows Best, and a personal friend of mine.

I met Vanessa through a local baby boutique/mom support center, Waddle n Swaddle, and we quickly connected on our shared interest in baby gear. Me, because of my gig reviewing products for Babble.com, and Vanessa? Vanessa just thoroughly enjoys going to baby expos and researching products. For fun. It wasn't long before I recruited her to help test strollers (1. she has babies — I, sadly, do not; 2. she knows everything), and then encouraged her to start doing video reviews (she was a former actress).

She also happens to be an "Early Mama."

So I'll feature videos from Vanessa, from time to time, to give you insight into products that first-time parents might not know about. I'm starting to veer away from the product-testing aspect of my career (to focus more on writing), but it's a resource that younger parents often need. And if it helps Vanessa, another "early mama," follow her passion? Then all the better. So I hope you'll join me in supporting her!

Here's a little background on Vanessa — a younger woman who married an older man, and never let something like "age" stop her from being an active member in the local mom community:

1. How old were you when you had your first little boy?

I was 26 years old when I had Cole. The exact age my mother was when she had me!

2. Did you consider yourself a "young" mom at the time? Did your family? Friends?

At the time, I did consider myself young. None of my childhood friends were even married, let alone a mom! As they were off becoming lawyers, journalists, and zookeepers (cool, right?), I was learning how to breast-feed, cloth diaper, and baby wear. I felt like I was living on a different planet.

3. I know that you married an older man. How did your family and friends react to that?

My family and close friends were really supportive when Chris and I got married. Although age was a factor in our courtship (I wasn't legally allowed to drink at our engagement party), it didn't change the end result!

But not everyone saw this marriage for what it was: for love. A high school friend said that she wasn't surprised I was marrying an older man because I had always been a "smart business woman." Haha. Looking back on it now, maybe she was right — I was smart to fall in love with someone who has been able to take care of me and now our boys.

4. Do you see any advantages to marrying someone older? Disadvantages?

Every relationship is different, but for me the advantages have HEAVILY outweighed the disadvantages. Chris already had an established career and had finished his "young and crazy" phase. He actually went on tour with a friend's band right before he met me — I think of that as his last "single" adventure. He was able to be my rock as I finished college and went from job to job, trying to find what fit best. (It wasn't until I had Cole that I truly discovered what I was meant to do. I was born to be a MOM.)

5. You were also fortunate enough to have financial security to stay home with your kids. Did you find your age to be an issue when connecting to other local stay-at-home moms?

I wouldn't say my age was an issue, but I was often the young mom in the bunch. Being a mom leveled the playing field — we were all covered in poop with leak stains on our shirts. And now that I am a mom of two, I have to seriously think about how old I am whenever asked. It really just becomes a number.

6. Was it a difficult decision to have baby #2 (Shane) so close after baby #1 (Cole)?

The short answer is no — it wasn't hard. I didn't want Cole to be an only child. I am very fortunate to have an awesome sister who is smart, funny, kind, and truly amazing. We are very close and I only hope my sons will have the same bond that she and I have. And Cole has to have SOMEONE to call when I am driving him crazy. Something only a sibling could understand.

7. You've been active in the community with promoting breastfeeding awareness and supporting local mom-led organizations. How did you get so involved with the local community — considering so many younger moms feel isolated?

My family was involved in many things throughout my childhood. Even though my mother was a working mom, she was on the PTA, was a Girl Scout leader, and the best Stage Mom an actress could ask for. I definitely get the drive to "join the cause" from her.

The focus on breastfeeding came from my father's mother, the late Joanna Van Derveer. She was a holistic mother who started the local La Leche League here in Poughkeepsie, NY. It's because of her that women in this area started getting peer support groups, lactation training, and natural living education. I only want to continue her legacy and give today's mom the education and support she needs to successfully breastfeed.

My advice to the mom sitting at home in her PJs reading this: Get dressed and get out. It might seem like an overwhelming task, but the rewards will be great. Find a mom group, mom class, La Leche League meeting, support group, local baby boutique, or even just a playground to find other moms JUST LIKE YOU. For me, it just took one day of courage to go to my first mommy's group (my dad even followed me there to make sure I was okay — hehe) and I've been going to that same place, Waddle n Swaddle, at least once a week for well over 2.5 years. It has changed my life!

8. Tell us about your decision to start a video review blog.

Haha, I am laughing because this question can be answered in so many ways. I am an actress, a spotlight hog, a performer looking for a stage; I am a researcher looking for the answers; I am a 5th Ave. girl stuck in a drool-covered T-shirt; and, most importantly, I am a mom looking for the best for her children.

While at home with my kids, I have found it important to stay "in the know" about the latest and greatest products on the market. Not only for safety reasons, but to give my kids the best that is out there. So I have slowly become enthralled with the baby product marketplace — attending expos, reading reviews, testing products. Now I feel that I need to share my wealth of knowledge with the public.

And to be perfectly honest, I was urged to start this by you, Michelle. I have been HAPPILY discussing products with you for awhile now, and I am GRATEFUL that you have pushed me in this direction. Nessa Knows Best wouldn't be here without my favorite Early Mama.

9. We talk a lot about the reasons we love being "early mamas." What's your favorite reason?

Energy. Somehow I am able to continue my high-paced, over-scheduled lifestyle on ZERO rest. Sleep is a foreign concept in this house, so I am always tired. I am thankful that my young body can somehow still function and has enough energy to take care of Cole and even make milk for Shane.

10. If you could go back and tell your pregnant self one thing, what would it be?

That you are stronger than you think. Nothing in motherhood comes easy, but you will be a better person for your struggles. You can do it!

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See Vanessa's product reviews at Nessa Knows Best, and stay tuned for her videos here on Early Mama.

Aren't these photos gorgeous? They were taken by my sister of Picnik Photography. Locals should totally book her for a shoot.

Also: If you emailed me about contributing, I'm aiming to email you back tonight. So stay tuned.