Extraordinary blazes new trails

F ashion icon, social entrepreneur, advocate, mother — Christy Turlington Burns has many superpowers. As founder and CEO of the maternal health organization Every Mother Counts, she and her team help mothers around the world access essential maternity care. Christy shares how she taps into insights, and how those around her inspire her to be even more Extraordinary than she already is.

My first pregnancy opened my eyes up to issues around maternal health. After my daughter was born, I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage. This experience caused me to think more about what women around the world have or don’t have with regards to access to care, which ultimately led me to start Every Mother Counts, or EMC, in 2010.

EVEN NOW, there are TIMES when I STILL HAVE to BUILD UP my RESILIENCE and BELIEVE in MYSELF.

EMC directs resources to projects that address barriers to maternal health and raises awareness by creating opportunities to engage in meaningful action. Part of what led me to form EMC is the fact that maternal health isn’t something that people often discuss. It’s important for me to be open and transparent, so other mothers can be, too, and get the help they really need. I feel that the knowledge I’ve gained, combined with personal experience, has given me a powerful platform to address this topic. Even though I started educating myself on this issue nearly a decade ago, I feel like there’s always more I can learn and do.

I’m constantly striving to expand the reach of the organization and make a greater impact. As CEO, I take every decision I make to heart as it will ultimately affect people’s lives. Over the years, I’ve returned to yoga and running to support my process. I like the quiet, listening to my breath, and getting back to a certain rhythm. It reminds me to slow down and pace myself; that I don’t have to do everything at once. I know that the answers will present themselves.

As I slow down, I realize I’m still discovering what EMC is, listening to what it wants to be, and trying to maintain my openness around what it should be. I’m lucky to be surrounded by extraordinary people every day, primarily women, who work tirelessly around the world supporting and empowering other women. They help raise my bar: If this is the caliber of people I’m around in my life, I’m going to push myself to be that much more extraordinary.

My dedication to mothers and their health has inspired me to get healthier, too. I started running marathons on behalf of EMC and found that it comes naturally to me. It’s fun to discover parts of myself I never knew existed. One thing I can count on is that no matter my age, I’ll still find new ways to surprise myself.

I feel more “me” today than I did two years ago, five years ago, and most definitely, 30 years ago. “Extraordinary” means many things, but for me, it’s really about my constant pursuit of understanding who I am and what’s most important to me. It’s about doing things that feel honest and purposeful, which right now, is advocacy. I want to be able to look back and know that I did all I could to improve the world in some way.