Okay, I’ll say it. I am scared of getting pregnant again. And I know that is a shitty thing to say, especially when I know several people close to me struggling so hard with infertility.
But it’s not without a lot of swirling confusion. My husband and I are very much done growing our family. Last month, I had a scare. My period was a few days late. I didn’t say a word to my husband. On one hand, I didn’t want to make him anxious until I was absolutely sure. On the other hand, I also didn’t want to disappoint him in case it ended up not being true. In other words, I was a hot steaming mess.
For two days, I was in agony. Could I do the newborn thing again? Hell, could I even do the pregnant thing again?? Some women glow throughout their whole pregnancy. I melt. I flub. I drag myself from point A to point B and take many breaks on the way. I’m just under 5’0” tall and my husband clears 6’1” easily. HE was a 10 lb. baby. Both my girls were born just on either side of 9 lbs. They say that with every pregnancy, the baby just keeps getting bigger. My poor back, lol.
And OF COURSE, we had just gotten rid of the baby stuff! No swing, no mamaroo, no newborn clothes, no high chair, no bottles, nothing! All gone! I know it’s not hard to find that stuff again, but that’s just more to worry about.
Then, by the 3rd day of waiting I had already rearranged our house and decorated the nursery. In my head, of course, but oh, the rug I picked out was so cute.
FINALLY, by Day 4, my period arrived. Balloon deflated. Sad but relieved. And still very confused because if turned out that I was pregnant again, I’d be happy and stressed.
Again, I feel shitty for saying it. Infertility isn’t anything to take lightly, and I don’t. But I also don’t enjoy being pregnant. This is why:
1. It is not fun.
Not enough time has passed to allow me to forget the bad stuff, and how rough the newborn stage was. Our first was such a challenging baby and I was so scarred that I fought getting pregnant again for over a year. There were nights that I would get barely 2 hours of cumulative sleep…not 2 hours at one time, cumulative. And THEN she didn’t want to nap during the day and would only do so if I was holding her, but I was so scared of SIDS that I would just sit there holding her wide the F awake. It got to the point where I would dread sundown because I knew what kind of fresh hell was waiting for me as soon as bedtime arrived.
Above all, health is the most important and biggest reason I’m scared of getting pregnant. I was born with intestinal malrotation, a congenital birth defect that affects the positioning of a person’s intestines within their abdomen. It can cause a volvulus, or in layman’s terms, a “bowel obstruction” which can restrict blood flow to the intestine. Other complications that can develop include dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, sepsis and perforation. Consequently, I had to have 2 surgeries before I was 6 months old to correct 2 separate obstructions that resulted from having malrotation. Luckily, I have had few complications for most of my life.
Now here’s where pregnancy comes in. For some reason, I grow my babies upside down. Both of my daughters were breech and I opted to have c-sections instead of turning them which had more risks IMO. While symptoms of malrotation seem to ease up during pregnancy (myself and others I know with anecdotal evidence), I just cannot risk too many surgeries because with every operation there is a chance to develop adhesions (scar tissue).
In between my daughters, I had an emergency surgery to remove a tumor on my ovary. My ob-gyn couldn’t get to it without damaging my intestine on the way there because of, as it was later described to me, “mountains of adhesions.” They had to call in another surgeon to help assist in the middle of my operation. Then when they tried to perform a tubal ligation during my c-section with my second daughter, they couldn’t get to it because of the amount of scar tissue that had developed. These adhesions could eventually cause another bowel obstruction, and unless you’ve had one, you don’t know show painful they can be. So, they are literally a ticking time bomb, and if not treated immediately, you could die. So yeah, that.
3. I don’t want to lose myself, again.
My husband and I have reached the part of our parenting journey where things are a little more steady. In addition, pandemic(s) not withstanding, we are able to sleep a little more. There is (somewhat) a routine. As their independence grows, I am able to focus a little more time on my creative projects. Things I’ve given up since having my precious daughters. This blog, for instance. My Etsy shop. Dinners with friends at restaurants that don’t have a kids menu.
And maybe…soon…acting. Again. I miss it. Well, right now, everyone does, so at least I’m not alone. #pandemic2020
Letting go of my acting career wasn’t the easiest thing I had to do, and in some ways I am still mourning it. But the light at the end of the tunnel is coming…it is faint but I can see it, like the tiniest star on the darkest night.
Or lack thereof. We are just not in a place where we can financially support another dog, let alone a baby. Childcare is so expensive that it makes no sense for me to work full time right now. So we are damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I have $10 in my wallet, maybe I’ll go buy a couple scratchers and see where that gets me. Minus $10, probably.
I am turning 40 sooner than I’d like to. Therefore, I am terrified that my body is going on a hormonal bender and just letting the eggs just pew! pew! pew! out into the galaxy that is my uterus. One of my friends is expecting twins and another just found out she is carrying triplets. I am not even 5’0” tall and imagining this body carrying more than one baby at a time is something that I’m having too much trouble doing.
Pregnancy for me was not as magical as I had dreamed it would be, truly. The newborn stage is a beast. Similarly, toddlerhood is a monster. Kid-dom is getting more delightful (and sassy, yikes LOL). However, should the miracle ever happen again, after the initial panic I am sure that joy will overcome any fear and anxiety that I will definitely have about being pregnant. I just really hope there’s only one in there!
Do you find yourself wondering if it’s the right time to take a break from your acting career?
It could be that you are tired, burnt out, and feeling generally unfulfilled.
Your survival job is starting to feel like a relief compared to your passion.
You start to dread auditions.
Maybe your health is suffering.
Perhaps you are thinking about starting a family.
I’ve been there.
ALL of these things were me back in 2013. I had just finished a production of Miss Saigon (KIM understudy, again – don’t get me started, that is a long healing heartbreak) and planning my wedding. I had moved an hour north of New York City to save my mental health and be closer to my then fiancé. We had been in a long distance relationship for over a year and we were totally over it.
I decided to take a break from acting for awhile, at least until after the wedding. Got married the summer of 2013, and then did a smattering of projects in 2014. THEN I got pregnant. I was determined to try to work but I wasn’t prepared for how tired I would be. Submitting to agencies that specialized in casting pregnant women didn’t amount to anything. That pregnancy was textbook annoying. I’m talking morning sickness, exhaustion, food aversions (all I ate during my first trimester were cheese pizza and potato chips), debilitating back pain (figured out why when my daughter was born weighing close to 9 lbs,THANKS KID), and my hands went numb. Luckily, that’s all it was.
Once my daughter was born, I thought that I could go back to auditioning, but nothing prepared me for the first 6 months of her life. She never slept. I was exhausted, cranky, and my body was just…not shaped right anymore. My confidence was low. Perhaps I also had mild PPD but I was so tired, it was impossible to know if my crankiness was because of that or the lack of sleep.
Then I had emergency surgery for a 10 centimeter tumor growing on my ovary. That was fun. At least I got two weeks of uninterrupted sleep, hah!
I went on a few auditions and did a couple of things while my daughter was 2, then I got pregnant again. Haven’t attempted to resurrect my career since. I just plain didn’t want to.
That’s a long break.
Well, yeah. It is. But I just lost interest. My priorities changed. And that’s okay.
A ‘friend’ of mine thought I was insane. He told me that he just couldn’t fathom walking away from his career, that I would lose momentum, casting directors would forget about me, bla bla bla. What I would have liked to hear was, “I’m glad you are taking time for yourself” or “You will come back stronger.” But nah. Just made to feel stupid. #canceled
So I am here, to tell YOU, that it’s okay for you to take a break from your acting career.
Again. IT IS OKAY FOR YOU TO TAKE A BREAK FROM YOUR ACTING CAREER
Let me tell you why.
Be it your mental health or your physical health, you cannot expect to put your whole self forward at an audition if you are not healthy. A little cold is one thing, but if you had a traumatic birth experience, or if you are suffering from PPD/PND, if you’re just TOO exhausted caring for a newborn, then sit out for awhile. If you have unexpected health problems, then ABSOLUTELY take a break, please. It’s perfectly fine to take care of yourself and let your career take a breather because the truth is, you’re the one who needs a breather.
Refocusing priorities after having children is pretty much a given. There are some parents (and I am not one of them) who are able to seamlessly move between motherhood and actor-hood. How do they do it? No idea – I wish I knew! BUT, but, but, but (very big but!) – that doesn’t mean their kids aren’t a priority, don’t get me twisted. We aren’t talking about them, we are talking about you. If you feel you have more important things to focus on (kids, finances, aging parents, moving…the reasons don’t matter, what matters is that they’re YOURS), then do it. There is no guilt to be had here. Guilt, for the most part is useless.
Devoting so much time into the creation of other people (characters or children, both apply here, right?) can leave you feeling empty. The feeling of “erasure” in motherhood is a sentiment shared far across the board. I guarantee you, there is no person who hasn’t felt they’ve lost part or all of themselves after becoming a parent. And while “taking a break from acting” may seem counterintuitive here, it allows you to focus on your emerging type, find new songs and monologues (ones that you can REALLY dig into now that you’re fully tapped into your ‘mother brain’), and build confidence again.
To expand on “finding yourself,” you may feel like you want to broaden your mind, explore other avenues besides acting or performance. Consider starting a business, perhaps. An Etsy store, or a blog. Something creative to keep you fulfilled that you can do on your own time. Or maybe you want to do something completely different for awhile. Go back to school! Finish your degree or find a new one. Creativity burnout is so real, and maybe the way to recover from it is to leave it all behind.
Finally, your interests may have changed. Maybe not forever, but for the unforeseeable future. The need for stability can weigh heavy, especially in an industry where gigs may or may not be consistent. Also, age – something that we’ve been conditioned to fear as actors. As we get older, we seek to find a deeper meaning in our lives. If your acting career has lost its momentum, or if you aren’t finding fulfillment in it anymore, then yes, take a break. Come back whenever you’re ready. At least you won’t be starting from scratch! This article from Backstage will put your mind at ease.
Repeat after me. It’s okay to take a break from my acting career.
Now, take a deep breath.
You’re going to be okay. Your career is going to be okay.
Now, go and find your support system. Stay away from those ‘friends’ who question your decision. It’s not their life, it’s not their stress, it’s not their business. If you need me, I am here!
What about me?
Still on my break, raising my babies. Writing this blog. Writing my scripts. I’ll be ready when I return, but for now, I am happy. Sometimes it’s hard when I see friends who’ve started their careers at the same time as I did already seeing the fruits of their consistency, but I have to keep remembering…they’re not me. I am not them. There is not one path to success, just as there is not one definition of it, either.
Have you taken a break? Did you find something new about yourself? Let me know in the comments!
*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no cost to you, if you click through and buy something, I get a little commission.
This is a LATE post, but it’s still relevant, especially if you are planning to throw a birthday party for your kids and need an idea for DIY birthday party favors. When planning my daughter’s 4th birthday party last year, I was thinking of what kinds of awesome party favors that would actually be used and played with. I didn’t want to fill up a goodie bag with a bunch of dollar store stuff and candy. These party favors needed to be practical, inexpensive, and most importantly, FUN! Especially since there were going to be 20 kids there!
AND if you price things right, it is possible to get 32 party favors for around $0.50 each! Last year when I drafted this post, the prices were different, so just keep that in mind.
Here is what you need:
Crayola Sidewalk Chalk – I got the 192 piece bulk pack from *SAM’S Club for less than $10.00! But if you can’t find it, you can try *these, or more options *here.
This Kid Friendly Recipe for 3 Ingredient Chicken Parmesan is TOO easy. It’s just 3 ingredients and perfect for kids who want to eat fancy but you know they’re lying. All they want is chicken nuggets, so that’s what we’re gonna give them.
I am not gonna waste your time with some long winded tale about how this kid friendly recipe was inspired by my best friend’s Italian mom who my kids now call their Nonna (Hi Nonna Theresa!) because we don’t have time for that. WE HAVE KIDS TO FEED. And this isn’t a food blog, either, so I don’t really use measurements. Rely on your mom instinct!
Here we go!
1. Your children’s favorite frozen chicken nuggets. If you want, you could even use leftover McDonald’s chicken nuggets (is there such a thing?)
2. Your favorite jarred marinara sauce. (We used Ragu because that’s all we had but I’m not complaining)
3. Oven mitts (because this cast iron pan is going in the oven!)
*If you don’t have a cast iron pan, a regular baking dish will do.
1. Cook the chicken nuggets in the cast iron pan according to the package directions. Cook as many that will fit in the pan of your choice. After the nuggets are finished cooking, remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven temperature to 375.
2. Remove the chicken nuggets and put them on a plate. (we are going to put them back later)
3. Pour the marinara sauce into the pan, just enough to fill the bottom but not overtake the chicken nuggets.
4. Put the chicken nuggets back in the pan.
5. Put the sliced or shredded mozzarella on top of each chicken nugget.
6. Place the pan back in the preheated oven and bake until the cheese has melted.
7. Sprinkle with dried parsley, or not. It’s up to you. It doesn’t really add much, it just looks fancy.
For an adult version, get get yourself some pre-breaded chicken cutlets.
We served ours with some Fettuccini Alfredo! The kids gobbled it up!
Now, this kid friendly recipe is in no way authentic Italian Chicken Parmesan. It’s not meant to be. It’s a quick and tasty dinner that takes 30 minutes and very few dishes to wash. And isn’t that all we need, sometimes? And this recipe is easy enough for the kids to help with. My 4 year old put the cheese on top and was so proud. Cook with your kids! They’ll eat what they make!
Pin this recipe for later! The kids will love it!
Cook the chicken nuggets in the cast iron pan according to the package directions. Cook as many that will fit in the pan of your choice. After the nuggets are finished cooking, remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven temperature to 375.
Remove the chicken nuggets and put them on a plate. (we are going to put them back later)
Pour the marinara sauce into the pan, just enough to fill the bottom but not overtake the chicken nuggets.
Put the chicken nuggets back in the pan.
Put the sliced or shredded mozzarella on top of each chicken nugget.
Place the pan back in the preheated oven and bake until the cheese has melted.
Sprinkle with dried parsley, or not. It’s up to you. It doesn’t really add much, it just looks fancy.
If you have not seen Miss Saigon, Medea, An Infinite Ache or Next to Normal (and possibly care to in the future), perhaps skip this post.
Back when I used to teach acting, I used to tell my students “All the really good actors are either really old or really dead.” Before you crucify me, please know it wasn’t a mutually exclusive statement. Of course there exists superb talent at any age. My point to them was that real life experience add so much to your arsenal as an actor. Very few can just “make it up.” Most of us had to have seen some shit first.
As I was working on my performer’s website, I thought about how many roles I’ve played that were mothers. “Kim” in MISS SAIGON, “Hope” in AN INFINITE ACHE and the title role of MEDEA. All challenging, all tragic in some way, and all mothers. I got to thinking…if I had a chance to perform these roles again, having had children, how would that feel? How would motherhood affect my acting?
AN INFINITE ACHE
In rehearsals for An Infinite Ache, director Marianne McLaughlin was talking me through a scene, in particular the lines where Hope says (and I paraphrase, I don’t have the text in front of me), “If someone even looks at him the wrong way, I feel like I could kill them.” She had this look on her face when describing that feeling, as if she was reliving all the moments in her life when she felt that way. I couldn’t understand it.
Fast forward to a few weeks before Christmas 2016 when a waste of sperm tried to kick my daughter (who was a toddler at the time) at the library and I had to sit on my hands because they were ready to strangle that little piece of shit. And at that moment, I finally understood what Marianne was telling me. Motherhood had finally caught up with my acting.
In An Infinite Ache, Hope loses her son in a tragic accident. I could not grasp the enormity of this. I’ve lost dear friends at young ages. One of my friends lost her daughter to illness at 8 months old. I’ve grieved for them and their families, but never could I understand this loss. No one can unless they’ve been through it.
I look at my daughters (ages 1 and 4) and I can’t even enter that dark realm where that “what if” thought lurks. That is an irrecoverable loss. I have to stop here because I don’t know what else to say about it.
Medea had a selfish or selfless plan for her boys, depending on your perspective. Revenge for her husband’s adultery was forefront on her mind, but she also felt she was sparing her children a life where they would be treated as second class citizens by her husband’s new family and wife. I wrote a paper in college comparing the infanticide committed by Medea to women like Andrea Yates who drowned her 5 children in an effort to save them. That paper and my “actor’s process” for connecting to Medea seemed so institutionalized, methodical, and stiff. I read a little bit about Andrea Yates just to refresh my memory for this post and I couldn’t read very much. It made me feel sick to my stomach. Post-partum psychosis is very real and very scary, and I can’t imagine nor attempt to understand what that is like. I don’t want to.
The original photo I had chosen for this segment was of the “aftermath” of the children’s deaths. I couldn’t even look at it for too long.
In MISS SAIGON, Kim sacrifices herself so her son could have a chance at a better life in America. Her former lover/baby daddy Chris had plans to support them in Thailand, but Kim knew better. She is aware that because of her son’s mixed heritage, his quality of life would suffer. When she is informed of Chris’ plans, she commits suicide to ensure their son would be taken back to America with his father.
Having played the role of Kim in the past, I was quoted as saying “She’s done what any mother would do in that situation. She sacrifices herself so her child can have a better life.” Remembering this interview in my room (oh, actors housing the good ol’ days LOL), I remember feeling like I had no idea what I was talking about. But what mother wouldn’t do that, though, right??
This, I know I would do. Push my children away from a speeding vehicle, throw myself between them and a bullet…no question. This, I understand. Before children, I had no idea this feeling existed, this iron clad contract between mother and child. And I am prepared to honor it.
HOW MOTHERHOOD HAS CHANGED MY ACTING PROCESS
Stakes have never been higher. Ever. Children are life and death situation at all times. You are literally trying to keep them alive and keep them from dying 24 hours a day. While they are little, there is not a single moment that every part of your body isn’t on high alert. That’s why I pee with the bathroom door open.
My old audition pieces have taken on a whole new meaning. Forget singing “I’d Give My Life For You” ever again. Singing “I Dreamed a Dream” in the shower destroys me. That imaginary man I used to sing my audition songs to has morphed into a little girl with dark brown hair and two of the most soulful eyes you ever did see. Contexts and subtexts and motivations have all mutated into something deeper, raw and innate. I am not saying that those feelings don’t exist for actors who are not parents, but I sure as hell know that they weren’t there before the kids showed up.
The role I’m both scared and intrigued to play is Diana in NEXT TO NORMAL. Her journey is so dark, and the element of mental illness resulting from her own personal tragedy makes for one hell of an actor’s dream. This is where motherhood and acting must simultaneously gel and separate. How? No idea. Not yet.
I can’t watch serious movies or anything sad or scary with a kid in it. That baby storyline in Ozark KILLS me. I have to leave the room. I had to walk out of A Quiet Place because I was 8 months pregnant when I saw it. Everything I watch is too much, lately. Whenever my husband and I watch something “too much” for me, I always make sure we “cleanse” with a comedy.
When they say kids change you, nobody mentioned their mere existence would emotionally destroy your television viewing experience for the rest of your life. What the hell happened to my brain?!
Motherhood is terrifying. I spend all day of every single day making sure my daughters don’t choke, or fall, or hit their heads, or run into the street or fall off the porch. I imagine going back to these roles after becoming a mother would be very difficult emotionally. How would I shed the rehearsal “high” and realign my brain back to the real world? Would it be like a really bad trip? How long would the recovery period be after the show closes?
If you’ve performed in an emotionally charged show involving motherhood and were also a mother at the time, how did that feel? How has motherhood affected your acting? Please let me know!
IMPORTANT: If you think you may be suffering from any form of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, or if you need support, please call the Postpartum International hotline at 1-800-944-4773.