At Monica + Andy, we celebrate strong, fearless women every single day. So in honor of International Women’s Month, we set out to look for moms who are making waves in their communities. Women like Lindsay Avner, of Bright Pink, who has made a serious impact on women’s health right here in Chicago.
We asked you to think of your teachers, neighbors, friends, or colleagues. Women who are fostering progress and inclusiveness. Women who are making a real difference in the lives of others.
We were overwhelmed with all of the wonderful nominations we received and we’re so honored to have learned about each and every one of the women in our community making a difference across the country. We’re excited to shed a light on the following four women (we couldn’t pick just three!) and treat each of them to a $250 Monica + Andy gift card.
Rena Stein: Turning Infertility Struggles into a Platform to Support Others
“Rena struggled with infertility for two years before giving birth to her beautiful baby girl Seri (now 1 1/2 years-old) through IVF. Throughout her fertility journey, she said she often felt alone, depressed and frustrated that she didn’t have a network of women for support. A licensed social worker, Rena decided to channel her own experience into a new career helping other women who were having similar experiences. She worked with RMA, one of the largest fertility clinics in New York, to create a new position for her in which she provides counseling and mental support to women facing infertility and pregnancy loss. Rena went through her fertility treatments with no insurance coverage and has traveled to Albany and worked with lawmakers in D.C. to lobby for healthcare reforms such as the Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act (FAFTA) and the Child-Parent Security Act, that would help cover these costs for the many women who need it. Last year, she chaired the Walk of Hope in New York, a fundraising event for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. She also runs an Instagram account, RenaStein_infertility in which she dispenses advice, humor and “real talk” to hundreds of women to let them know they are not alone in their struggles.”
– Olivia Oran on her friend Rena Stein (Mom + Advocate & Founder of @RenaStein_infertility)
Xouhoa Bowen: Empowering Pregnant Women in Need
“Xouhoa is an amazing woman who started the non-profit Community Impact Lab in 2016 to empower women and families in need to live, give and grow to their fullest potentials. The organization caters to a wide range of people in need including refugees, domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims and homeless families.Community impact lab hosts events year round: monthly home-cooked meals for victims of a local domestic violence shelter, drives for clothing of expectant mothers in need, and just recently a community baby shower where they pampered and showered 100+ moms and moms-to-be. The moms were provided with everything from hand treatments, diapers and clothes to toiletry items and even strollers for their new babies. Before founding Community Impact Lab, Xouhoa served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, taught refugees in inner-city Milwaukee, and worked as a teacher, faculty manager, and curriculum designer in South Korea.”
– Christy Trombley on her Xouhoa Lily Bowen (Mom + Founder & CEO, Community Lab Impact)
Amber Dent: An Advocate for Children with Down Syndrome
“Amber is a fellow police wife. Our husbands worked on the SWAT team together and that’s how we became close friends. A few years ago Amber and her husband found out they were expecting — YAY! After some initial early testing, they found out their baby girl had Down Syndrome. While stunned and heartbroken, they doctor’s asked Amber if she wanted to continue her pregnancy. Without hesitation, Amber said “yes”. She mourned the baby she wouldn’t have but embraced the one she would with open arms and an open heart. She took lemons and made lemonade. She began blogging to help her work through her fears of having a baby with Down Syndrome, of not knowing anything about the disorder and put her raw, real emotions out there to comfort other moms in similar situations.
She has made her blog, Baby Lemonade, a go-to resource for moms who are expecting a baby with Down Syndrome and will drop anything she’s doing to answer a question from one of her readers. She is an advocate for her daughter, Kara, but also for others.
Amber is currently expecting her second daughter in August, and continues to blog about Kara, Down Syndrome, advocating for others with Down Syndrome, her triumphs and tribulations, and everything in between.”
– Abby Eckel on her friend Amber Dent (Mama + Founder, Baby Lemonade)
Ashley Spyrka: Helping other parents with the Grieving Process
“Ashley is a strong, loving and amazing woman. At the most heartbreaking time in her life. She turned her loss into help for other woman and families that have had a stillborn child. Ashley lost her full term Son in August. Liam was born still. Ashley and her husband had access to a Cuddle Cot — a cooling system that extends the time parents have with a stillborn.
Once Ashley was back home she realized having access to the Cuddle Cot allowed them precious extra time with their son Liam. She discovered not all hospitals provide access to Cuddle Cots for parents and wasted no time in creating a GoFundMe page to raise money. Within just a month, she raised a total of $12K and purchased 4 Cuddle Cots which she then personally delivered to the hospitals. She now uses her blog,, Forget Me Knot, to reach and connect with other parents of stillborn babies. Ashley has given so much unconditional support to women going through similar heartbreak. She is the most loving and kind person I know.”
– Kathleen Calarie on her daughter Ashley Spyrka (Chicago, IL)