Jasmina Brković is the owner of Krilatica, obrt za edukaciju i savjetovanje, which coaches women from pregnancy through early motherhood – in a way that currently does not exist in Croatia.
Through her own struggles with conceiving a child, she personally experienced the shortcomings in how we educate women about both pregnancy and motherhood – negatively impacting both mother and child. Through compassionate education in Croatian and English, both online and in person, Jasmina encourages women to take control with a focus on prevention and self-care.
Whether you’re a mother or aspiring mother or neither, Jasmina’s words below will sink deep for anyone who reads them. She exposes the misconceptions about womanhood that still reign supreme.
As part of our Women’s Month campaign, 94 female-owned businesses in Croatia were nominated for recognition by YOU – our audience. Our independent panel of Croatian professionals selected 5 extraordinary businesses to be interviewed and featured on expatincroatia.com. Krilatica was one of the 5 selected – deservedly so.
I spoke with Jasmina on March 4, 2022, during which we talked about…
- The fear that inspired her business
- How she helps women during and after pregnancy
- Emptiness in the care of women in Croatia
- Myth of the “Super Woman”
- Making mistakes
- Why being a woman entrepreneur ROCKS
- Why it’s not all about postpartum
- Is it enough?
- Paušalni obrt, the savior
- Curbing trauma in Croatian hospitals
- What is next for Krilatica
- How to support Jasmina and Krilatica
Read the full interview below…
Interview with Jasmina Brković of Krilatica
Marija: The inspiration to open your business came from your own personal challenges with conceiving. What did you originally want to do for work? When was the moment that you decided to change course and use your experiences to help other aspiring mothers?
Jasmina: I studied and graduated in comparative literature and information science which is very extensive in itself. After university, I trained to be a curator and worked in culture “on and off” for several years. I had a lot of interests and hobbies such as culture, dance, etc.
I was trying to find myself for a long time but what really made a difference for me, what totally transformed me was the experience of my pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood.
This started in my early twenties with my experience with endometriosis. It shaped me in a lot in terms. It is a chronic condition that required a lot of changes in my lifestyle, and my attitude toward myself, my health, my body, and my soul.
It was also the reason I postponed my pregnancy for a very long time. I was afraid of complications, I was also looking forward to it. It was a whole mixture of feelings that intensified when I actually did get pregnant.
At the same time fear was present – a fear that is normal for the first pregnancy, almost all women experience it. I felt a fascination with this process – how is it possible that we, as girls, later young women, know so little about the entire process, about our body. I found the entire journey absolutely amazing.
One doesn’t really rule out the other – both that fascination and joy of it and the fear of what’s to come. I spent the pregnancy studying and researching and that’s how it all really started… it was the seed of everything I would later do. It culminated in birth that didn’t turn out the way I had expected and was actually quite a traumatic experience.
Then followed the adjustment to motherhood and a long physical recovery and that whole emotional segment – I felt utterly lost – I just was not ready for it all. Not that we can ever really be ready for the experience, but I felt like it tore me apart.
I can’t really encompass in a few sentences how much I have changed on all levels. When that first year [of motherhood] came to an end, I had already completed two trainings for a maternity doula and a postpartum doula.
I realized I could not go back to an ordinary job that doesn’t really fulfill me at all. It was inconceivable for me to go to work for 9-10 hours a day, just to raise money for someone else to spend the whole day with my daughter.
I decided to take that big leap to start my own business, completely throw myself into the unknown – also continue my personal development so that I could have the flexibility to spend more time with my daughter. It was born from one very personal moment, from my experience. I did not understand how it’s possible that we don’t talk about it, which led me to make a complete swerve.
Marija: Sounds brave. What did Krilatica look like when you first started? What does it look like now? How has it grown?
Jasmina: How Krilatica looks today… (pause) how shall I put it? What has actually changed is… I have changed (laughs). I have a much clearer vision of what I want to do. I started with so many things – childbirth, motherhood, as a birth doula. I accompanied women to childbirth, I educated pregnant women, I started my own online antenatal class.
I really found myself in the last year – my entire focus is to support women who want to heal their birth story and adapt to motherhood. I have launched an online program where I work with a small group of women both individually and in groups for the purpose of letting go of that negative experience of childbirth and finding some lessons in it that will support them further in their journey into motherhood.
For me, pregnancy and childbirth, and motherhood are simply one way of personal growth. We can try and ignore that aspect, but it’s so inseparable, at least in my world. I thought about how I was going to raise her, how I will pass on some things to her, and I have neglected… motherhood.
It is genuinely more about me than about her. It is the children who show us where we are the weakest and where we need to work on ourselves. Nothing is so much a mirror to us and such a trigger as our children. Pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood are for me maturing into the next phase of life.
Today, the focus of my work is how to grow into being a mother and support women in that path so that it transforms the experience of childbirth. My first childbirth was a burden for me for far too long.
Today – even though the process was difficult – it is one of the most empowering experiences I have had. This whole journey of mine – the personal and the professional intertwine continuously. I have a business persona but for me, it was mostly a personal journey.
Marija: Do you even manage to switch off after work at all or is it really a constant, that intertwining?
Jasmina: How shall I put it? I’ve struggled with that for a long time and it’s still a challenge for me sometimes because I live what I do and because I work from home most of the time. Those boundaries are very permeable (laughs), but more and more – as I go on – I’ve gained a kind of mental discipline and clarity.
I’m getting better organized with my obligations and I’m using my time more and more consciously. I think all those who work from home and all those who have their own business and who are passionate about what they do have a little trouble delineating those things.
Marija: I understand. This is all really so touching, such a beautiful story. Really. The work of Krilatica is generally considered an alternative in most societies. What is the view of what you do in Croatia? Do you encounter much skepticism, or are women yearning for an alternative to hospitals?
Jasmina: That’s a good question. What I currently do – it really does not exist. I have literally invented my profession – that is, I did not invent it, but it came organically from me and my endeavors from the past 5 years.
[There is] a huge need and emptiness in our care for women. The entire pregnancy is followed. You are literally checked from month to month. Some would even say there are too many check-ups, pregnant women are watched too closely, and after childbirth, you are just expected to cope on your own.
You have one checkup six weeks after childbirth and that’s it. They pretty much ask you “Is everything back in place?” You say “It is, more or less” and move on.
Throughout that first year after giving birth and longer, both physical and emotional changes happen. There is no one a woman can actually turn to. She can turn to her close people if there are some who can listen with understanding and sympathy, who can give some broader context to what happened, but such people are really, really rare.
In that sense, what I do is really alternative. I keep calling it a “support for the process” because there is no such profession. We can say it’s kind of coaching. I have just started training that is essentially a trauma resolution modality – so, a trauma therapist. It’s kind of going in that direction, but it’s invented this profession.
I see that at first [women] don’t know how to react, but since I really write a lot, started my YouTube channel, and have my newsletter – it doesn’t matter to them anymore what I do, but what I can do for them.
They recognize themselves in what I write. What happens below the surface in motherhood is universal. The moment they feel that recognition, my titles, my education, and my experience are less important because they feel that this is the next step for them – that they can find support here for what they are going through.
I’m sure there’s a lot of prejudice, but somehow it doesn’t bother me. Whether this is luck or a consequence of my decisions – I am simply surrounded by people who recognize what I am doing – more and more every day.
Marija: Jasmina, I also follow your blog. You’ve encouraged me to support some of my friends even more – because it all became much clearer to me, even though I don’t have children. Thank you. Were there any challenges you faced in opening your business that were specific to being a woman?
Jasmina: Not in the process of opening the company, but I think my challenge is similar to what most women go through – and that is the question of whether to dedicate themselves to a career or to their children. We are often told we can’t have both.
In fact, the circumstances in which we live often confirm this opinion. Not because we are not capable, but because we do not have the support to do so. If childcare is entirely a woman’s responsibility, housework, all that logistics – of course she can’t do it all.
I totally don’t support those myths about superwomen because the fact is that something is always going to have to give. I don’t think we should be everything. I’ve found a compromise in my life, but it’s not because I’m better and more capable than other women but because I’ve sorted out some priorities and have come to such an agreement with my husband – that he takes on a lot more. And because I hired babysitters, so I have a lot of help that I decided I wanted to have.
I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed my job or my kids but I’m trying to find some flow in all this. I really want to emphasize that it’s not something we can do on our own – to build a business, especially as women. support at home and logistics in terms of both childcare and housekeeping and equal partnership is also needed. It’s just not everyone for themselves. It really isn’t – especially in motherhood and, by God, nor in business.
Marija: What is the main thing you had to sacrifice in your life for your business?
Jasmina: We want to be comfortable constantly. When you make any step forward, whether in business, relationships, or in setting boundaries, we think “I’m going to wait to get strong enough and build self-confidence, and then I’m going to get started.” But, in fact, those skills and self-confidence, and sense of security are what we build along the way.
Once I realized that, it became so much easier for me. I was haunted by this kind of perfectionism. I was very weighted with trying not to make a mistake, “What will happen if I make a mistake?” And then when I accepted the fact that it’s an integral part of the journey and that if I never make a mistake I just can’t go on. I can’t wait for my circumstances to improve and for me to become less uncomfortable because I will never feel comfortable doing the next big thing or doing anything for the first time. As long as we wait – it won’t happen. That’s where I mostly had to change my way of looking at things and that’s what I have sacrificed.
Jasmina: For me personally, the biggest advantage is that I am free. I have tried to work at a university, in a public institution, in a private company – more or less all forms of working for someone else – but nowhere do I feel at home as working for myself. I accept all the benefits and the responsibilities that come with it.
In Croatia, a movement is being created. I see what is possible for women in entrepreneurship and how women can treat other women. I have encountered online communities of women from ex-Yu areas that are the wind at each other’s backs and not stumbling stones.
I would like to mention Sara Peranić and Jovana Miljanović. Through their workshops and their mastermind programs – a whole new world of opportunities for women has opened up to me. These women unite to help each other. [They] are not wolves to other women.
It’s wonderful to be a part of that synergy and I’m really glad to be living in this moment in time. When I think about my mother and my grandmother, not even to mention the great-grandmothers before them, what was possible for them, and what is possible for me – I can only be grateful and privileged to be where I am at.
Marija: Of course. To have and give such support. Given that you work with women experiencing post-partum depression, how do you empathize and guide these women without taking on the depression yourself? Does it ever overwhelm you? How do you get inspired and stay positive?
Jasmina: Yes, postpartum depression is that one term we are all familiar with. I also think that when you google postpartum, depression will immediately pop out and it is like some boogeyman that many women fear after childbirth. If they have some awareness of mental health, of their emotions after childbirth, it will usually be their first thought and first fear – depression. But there are many other problems.
What I would like to emphasize is that I don’t work with women who have a diagnosis, but most women don’t have a diagnosis. They are not on the clinical spectrum. They have normal reactions to totally abnormal circumstances – having childbirths in the way they are. They generally have no support. They have to face certain realities of their physical recovery. They are often not well physically. They have to adjust to life with the baby. They are not emotionally okay and are lost. Some of those things happen simultaneously and it becomes too much for a woman.
My experience of the first childbirth was also like that. I realized there was a whole link missing in that continuum – pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood. Everybody expects you to deal with it on your own. It was hard for me, at first, to listen to the experiences of women because I have heard some very difficult stories.
Everyone has a human reaction to that and we are empathetic. What I realized is that I can help them only when I am firm and stable in my role. I have built a healthy boundary in all of it and spend a lot of time dedicated to my own health and my well-being. I go to psychotherapy and meditate and take walks in nature. I work on myself on all levels because I think it is necessary to be able to with people.
This journey can be difficult, but it comes with a lot of rewards and I know what is possible for them because I went through it myself. I know how I felt after the first childbirth and how it was completely different after the second childbirth and how I feel today. I want to be that light that gives them perspective, for them to be able to look at what is possible and that they know they are not a lost cause. That there is always something you can do.
Marija: We have talked about the fears related to childbirth. What is your biggest business fear and how do you fight against it?
I think that’s the difference – do we live in abundance or poverty? But I don’t necessarily mean that in a financial way. You know, how okay are we with ourselves? I don’t think I know a woman, a mother, who doesn’t ask herself that question sometimes.
That fear that we may all have – whether because of the climate, because of upbringing, because of childhood, because of the circumstances in which we live today, and some of the uncertainties we have to make friends with. Will I be enough? Capable enough? Strong enough? Will I have enough? And how do I deal with that? (long pause) I’m sorry, you really hit the spot…
What I teach women through my work is to learn to hold themselves, even in such moments. Our first reaction to fear or any other unpleasant emotion is… “No! Let’s push that away.” What you resist the most – like the ball you try to push under the sea – it floats right back up.
Simply stick to your guns in such moments. You must make friends with uncertainty and vulnerability that is built within us. [If you do] there is nothing I experience that you cannot identify with. I think that moment of connection is what ultimately heals us.
Marija: I am speechless. I really am. Thank you for your honesty. On the other hand, it is also a kind of unnecessary pressure that we put on ourselves.
Jasmina: The pressure is absolutely there – to perform in every segment, as a woman, as a mother, as a businesswoman, as a sister, as a daughter. There are so many social expectations and personal expectations that we constantly impose on ourselves. “What makes a good woman, what makes a good mother?” – and I think that’s a whip that we take in our hands every day. The cure is to hold on and be gentle with ourselves.
Marija: And that whip is holding us back at the same time.
Jasmina: Yes! It’s not encouraging at all! But that’s what we were taught and now we must unlearn it.
Marija: What do you think Croatia can do, or do better to be more supportive of the entrepreneurial spirit?
Jasmina: My experience so far has been okay. I have used incentives to open my own business and it has been a very positive experience for me. I started from zero, without experience, without any support and that was one of the deciding factors for me – to have those first months of business covered.
I can’t talk about what this measure meant to others, but it meant a lot to me at the time. It’s not complicated for me to run a business – I’m talking about a “paušalni obrt”. I didn’t feel deprived at any point, in fact – that was a very good way to start my own business.
[Read: How to open an obrt]
I managed very well in running the business, settling the accounts. Even my communication with the tax authorities was very good. I know a lot of people are constrained by bureaucracy, but that hasn’t bothered me so far, really.
I hope I didn’t jinx myself now. (laughter)
Marija: So, these incentives… They were some kind of wind at the back?
Jasmina: Yes. To have those contributions and taxes covered, to have those 11 months to start everything, to know that you have some time before you start paying your contributions, taxes and everything – that meant a lot to me.
Marija: Our owner Sara has known many women who have had traumatic and, in some cases, near-death experiences at the Split hospital. What is your message to new mothers about why using a doula is superior to the traditional route of giving birth in a hospital?
Jasmina: What needs to be said here is that traumatic childbirth does not necessarily entail a tragic experience. The word trauma is so charged with meaning and we mostly associate it with catastrophic events, with experiences of war, with tragic outcomes, but that’s not it. Trauma is simply anything that is too much for us, beyond our capacity, situations in which we feel out of control as if we have no influence on the fact that things happen to us and not that we actively participate in it.
There are such dramatic situations in Croatian maternity hospitals, but that’s not the only thing that makes childbirth traumatic. These are definitely experiences that need to be worked on later. They can cause disruption and affect all levels of our lives – motherhood, relationship with our body, our health. This is something that demands our attention.
In terms of prevention, a conscious passage through pregnancy and preparation for childbirth can contribute a lot. In the sense that we know how pregnancy goes, what happens in childbirth and what happens on the physiological side, on the physical side of our body, what our rights are, and what the situation is in maternity hospitals.
I don’t want this to be interpreted as if it’s all up to us, but when we take the ball back in our corner – that’s when we have the most power. We cannot change the birth system, but we can influence our position in it, how we will approach it and how we will get into it.
A woman who is informed, who is prepared, who has worked through her pregnancy, in preparation for childbirth, for motherhood, who has secured support in all these plans – is much less likely to have such an experience.
I emphasize – no one is to blame for what happens to them. I’m talking about how we can prevent those experiences. I am now in a training organized by British psychologists and psychiatrists. They talk about how little awareness there is in their country. 25-40% of women experience childbirth as traumatic. I’m talking about Britain and we’re, unfortunately really far behind them.
Marija: I suspect it has an impact on the child as well?
Marija: Again, education, education, education…
Jasmina: That’s a good point. I forgot to say one thing – women are very focused on the child, which is totally understandable… but they somehow neglect themselves in the process.
If we really want to do good for children – we should take care of moms. As a society, systematically, we are very bad at this. That’s why I keep giving that ball back to women. It all starts with you. You’re the one who needs to do something, not because it’s your fault, or because “Ah, I have to do everything now” – but because we have the only real power to change something.
It is debatable how long this will take – maybe for our daughters our birth system will look different, but what we can do is see what we can do today to make things better for us.
Jasmina: The first thing that came to mind when I saw all these questions was “Wow, I’m doing something today that I’ve wanted all my life and I didn’t even know existed.”
That was exactly what it was for me, a discovery, an insight, at that moment – how good this is. Because, 5 years ago, entrepreneurship did not exist as a term in my mind. Then I realized “Oh, well, I’m an entrepreneur too, I’m doing things, I’m starting new projects, I’m actually creating a profession and an occupation that really didn’t exist until not long ago.”
My next big goal is what I’m actively working on now. I launched this online program called Preporođena (Reborn). I work with women in order to heal childbirth trauma and make their childbirth a tool for growth and a new level of pleasure in motherhood.
I’m educating myself in a more therapeutic direction. I’m going through a lot of trainings and trying to integrate it all into one unique approach. I have experienced what it means to have childbirth that totally destroys you and not know who and what you are in motherhood.
I see how powerful childbirth is in our lives. It has a very great potential to define us in a positive or a negative way and we underestimate it. Childbirth is not something to “survive and then forget” because you won’t forget it.
It is through these challenges that we have the opportunity to grow to the next level. This is my next big goal: to constantly raise it to the next level, to get better at what I do, to raise awareness about it even more because it’s no longer my job. It’s something I live, for now, my calling. I see myself developing this further in the future.
Marija: A calling and a passion. I am speechless a little. (laughter) Thank you! Really, thank you. Thank you!
Jasmina: Thank you. Thank you for what you do. Don’t call it a ‘little project’ because it’s a very big thing.
Marija: Ah, Jasmina. Again, with the modesty.
Jasmina: When I look back now, I realize how much things like this contribute. There are some Facebook groups for women entrepreneurs. I see how the word “female” is getting more and more visible in the public sphere. That is not insignificant.
When you say, “best woman entrepreneur”, someone will hear “woman entrepreneur” for the first time. They will be like “Oh, I didn’t even know that existed. Why didn’t I want to be an entrepreneur when I was little?” Not because I didn’t want to but because I didn’t know something like that existed. Because I always thought “How am I going to do it, what am I going to do, I’m finding myself. Mom, I’m searching for myself.“
The things you might want to do don’t exist yet. There you go. And with things like this, you give permission, you give those women the opportunity to do the same. So, it’s not a ‘little project’, and thank you, thank you very much for doing it.
Marija: Thank you for the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful words.
Jasmina: Thank you.
View the full list of Women’s Month 2022 winners here. We will publish a new female entrepreneur interview every week during March. Stay tuned…
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.