Model Ashley Graham opens up about the beautiful and difficult parts of being a new parent and why she's unapologetically open on social media.

By Anna Halkidis
May 07, 2021
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An image of Ashley Graham.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Like so many new parents, Ashley Graham quickly realized all the thoughts she had about motherhood were nothing compared to the reality of having a newborn. "Your whole life turns upside down," she says. On top of that, the model gave birth to son Isaac in January 2020, a few months before the pandemic would shut the world down. But she found a silver lining there.

"I have to say it was such a blessing because I got to have the maternity leave that I actually never thought that I would have, and the maternity leave that I didn't know I was going to want to have," says Graham, who teamed up with credit card alternative company Affirm for a Mother's Day giveaway on Instagram celebrating all different types of mom figures. "I had a mindset when I was pregnant, like, 'Oh, I'm just gonna take two or three months off, and I'm gonna go right back into work, and everything's gonna be so fine.' And then when I met Isaac, I was like, 'I don't want to go back.' But it was this beautiful balance of being able to work from home and being able to be with him."

The Pretty Big Deal podcast host also acknowledges how fortunate she is to have a supportive, hands-on partner, husband Justin Ervin, and her mom, Linda Graham, by her side. "Not everybody has their husband or their mom around, but just knowing that your kid, no matter who they're with, is taken care of—it's such a peace of mind," she says.

Having the support also allows her and her husband to have a date night every Thursday and to take some time for herself—as she plans to do this upcoming Mother's Day. "I am taking my mom to a spa. We are going to have mimosas and get a massage," says Graham.

The body positive star talks more about her postpartum journey, baby Isaac, and why she loves being transparent on social media.

On the hardest part of being a new parent:

I would say the hardest part is definitely that real mom guilt about leaving. And the first time I left was when I walked in Milan Fashion Week… It was the first time I was going to leave him—it had been eight months. I had lots of milk saved up, but just that idea of leaving him just brought so much guilt. Then when I actually got on the airplane, I was like, "Wait, I could treat this like a vacation." And that's what I did for four days.

On the rewarding parts of motherhood:

The rewards are daily. Isaac brings us so much joy, just watching him grow and learn. And he's so inquisitive. And he's so curious. And he's a big adventurer. So, I have to say it's a daily joy being around him. It just makes me want to have more and more.

On postpartum surprises:

Everybody told me if you breastfeed, the weight falls off. Well, that was BS. And I'm still working on like 20 pounds. When I say working on, I just kind of look at it every day like, "Hello, new body." And that's just kind of how I go on with it.

And I think it was like around four months, my whole hairline fell out. And that was more traumatic than even birth because I was like, "My hair's falling out in clumps—what am I doing?" and then I realized it's actually a thing. My skin got a bit irritated as well, and I had a little bit of rosacea that I had to combat.

On staying organized with Baby:

For me, it's all about scheduling and making sure that me, Justin, and my mom—because my mom is my caretaker—are all aligned on the calendar and that we have a routine. Sometimes that routine has some bumps or some changes, but we stay in a group text, we have a Google Calendar, and I think that it's really been helpful for us.

On being so open on social media:

I like to share every aspect of my life. I don't want to hide how I'm taking care of my body, whether it's mental health, stretching, movement. Even through pregnancy, I wanted other pregnant women to know it's OK to move your body as long as you've been doing it before you were pregnant for safety reasons… For me moving my body is like a big form of self-care—and mental health has really been such a big conversation that people have been having, especially all through 2020. I just have found it incredibly important for everybody to talk about their journey and what they've been doing because it helps people who are struggling.

Anna Halkidis is the features editor at Parents.com. Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.