Gabrielle Union Loves the Imperfections of Motherhood After a 5-Year Fertility Struggle
Hearts exploded across social media when fans got the surprise news that actress Gabrielle Union had welcomed a baby girl. Now Union is living her dream—which, irony of ironies, comes with precious little sleep.
You could practically hear the gasps of joy when the Instagram post went up on November 8 last year: Gabrielle Union and her husband, pro basketball player Dwyane Wade, cuddling a newborn—their newborn—in the hospital. Union had kept quiet about the impending birth, choosing to surprise fans with the adorable proof and a caption featuring lyrics from Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day.”
“I felt such relief,” says Union of Kaavia’s arrival. “To hear her breathing and crying was a dream. We didn’t really allow ourselves to believe it until then.”
The little girl’s presence is all the more sweet considering Union’s pregnancy struggles. “There was a lot of pain, and a lot of disappointment,” says Union, who suffered multiple miscarriages and unsuccessful IVF treatments over nearly five years. “I felt like I was not only disappointing myself and my spouse, but all the people who’d hung a lot of hope on us. I felt like a complete loser and failure.”
The actress, who suffers from adenomyosis, a condition in which the inner uterine lining grows into the uterine wall, came close to giving up on her dreams of having a baby. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this again,’ ” Union says. Ultimately, she and Wade chose IVF and a gestational surrogate to carry their baby, a decision she admits was an emotional hurdle that her husband got over first. “Watching the person he loves more than anything suffer the physical toll of loss, he was just like, ‘There is another way.’ ”
Now Kaavia is here, joining a blended family that includes Wade’s sons from a previous marriage, Zaire, 17, and Zion, 11; his son Xavier, 5; and Wade’s 17-year-old nephew, Dahveon. “We enjoy every moment,” says Union. “But days fly by in a blur of life. It’s like watching a clip in fast-forward. I’m like, ‘No, I’m still in it!’ ”
While some celebs keep their kids off social media, Kaavia already has an Instagram handle, @kaaviajames (with half a million followers), and her own hashtag, #shadybaby, in reference to her hilarious smirks. “Kaavia really is the personification of hope for a lot of people like us, who maybe didn’t have a lot to be hopeful about,” Union says. “She represents that maybe there is a light at the end. And when you take people on the low points of your journey, it’s cool to let them be part of the joy. Plus, she’s really cute. And has an uncanny ability for making steely eye contact!”
The mom is cherishing these first months. “When I ask her a question, Kaavia responds with a lot of animation, and she’ll pause so you can ask her more,” Union says. “She follows along, but she doesn’t do baby talk. When people talk baby talk, she gives shady-baby looks.”
Union quickly mastered the art of swift daily routines. “Kaavia went through a phase of not napping,” the actress recalls. “I was like, ‘When do I shower or pee or live?’ So I had to get a little comfortable with her crying, which I had not been. And then I took the quickest shower of all time!”
Daddy shares baby duties. “Dwyane is like a stage mom,” says Union. “He’s very hands-on. When he’s in Miami and we’re in Los Angeles, he wants to know everything, from her poops to what outfit she’s wearing,” she says. Her husband took two weeks’ paternity leave, a rarity in the pro-sports world.
Union is learning baby care as fast as she can. “I suck at swaddling,” she says. “I don’t know whether to use glass or plastic bottles. I never knew there were so many types of nipples. And installing a car seat is like taking the SATs! I don’t have all the answers, which feels terrifying.”
Nevertheless, she has perspective. “An upside of being 46 and having been a stepparent is I give myself permission to be human,” she says. “When I need a minute to return emails or cry or mindlessly scroll social media, I’ll take it. I’m not trying to be a perfect parent.”
She also acknowledges that working motherhood means shifting priorities. “I’m okay with life not being balanced,” she says. “I’m not hitting it out of the park in every area. There are times I should be studying lines, but I’m playing with my baby and I’m enjoying it.”
She knows she’s lucky she can bring Kaavia to the set of L.A.’s Finest, Union’s TV series costarring Jessica Alba. The pair of powerhouse moms executive produce the police drama, which debuts May 13 as the first Spectrum Originals Series for Spectrum On Demand. “Jessica outfitted my trailer like a nursery,” Union says. “Together, we’ve reimagined what Hollywood can be for working moms.”
In addition to producing the show, Union is developing seven other TV shows and five films, helms the Gabrielle Union Collection for New York & Company (including a baby capsule line!), and serves as a judge on America’s Got Talent. She’s grateful for all of it—but especially for Kaavia. “This has been the divine coming to fruition,” she says. “Kaavia has allowed us to dream bigger and wider than we ever have before.”