A Conversation with Jenny McCarthy
Model and actress Jenny McCarthy discusses celebrity motherhood, granny panties, and skinny woman rage.
Jenny McCarthy on Celebrity Pregnancy
"Screw winning an Academy Award someday...I GAVE BIRTH!"
And so begins Jenny McCarthy's best-selling Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth (Da Capo).
McCarthy, former MTV host -- and yes, Playboy's 1994 Playmate of the Year -- gave birth to her first child, Evan, in May 2002. And no hormonal rampage or gassy fart is too embarrassing for her to dish about. In her trademark playful and frank style, McCarthy checked in with AmericanBaby.com, and talked about all the joyful -- and ridiculous! -- things that go hand-in-hand with becoming a mother.
AmericanBaby.com: Belly Laughs, your recent book about the "naked truth about pregnancy and childbirth," is a New York Times best-seller. Obviously, your book has struck a chord! Did you ever think that your musings on granny panties and skinny woman rage would do so well?
Jenny McCarthy: Well, actually, yes! I mean, every time I would talk to friends about the crazy things that were happening to my pregnant body, they'd all say, "Oh my gosh, yes! That happened to me too, but no one warned me." That kind of reaction told me that someone needed to share the gross stuff, and that everyone would relate to the truth being told.
AB: As a woman who is comfortable in front of cameras -- from Playboy playmate to MTV host to film/television actress -- you have experience living in the public eye. How was sharing your pregnancy publicly a different experience? Was it harder or easier to do?
JM: Celebrity or not, pregnancy does some wicked things to your body, and I think it's ridiculous to deny the changes. Yes, I'm in the public eye, but any fool can see that I gained weight like every other pregnant woman on earth since the beginning of time!
By sharing the details of my experience, I beat the critics in the media to the punch. Anyone who wants to say "Oh, look at the weight she gained," doesn't have an audience now because I admitted to the weight gain first. (And I didn't round the number down like some others do either!)
On Humor and Frankness
AB: People say that the truth can set you free. I think you would say that frankness can make you even more free. You have said that pregnancy took your frankness to a whole new level. How so?
JM: Oh yes, frankness -- and the kind that's in this book -- does set you free. As I said before, when you speak your mind and tell the truth about an experience, you effectively silence the people who might want to exaggerate, or make up the story themselves.
But more than that, the reaction I've had from readers has been so gratifying -- they all tell me that they are glad that someone else admits that some weird things happen when you're pregnant. I'm sure that my frankness has set them free, too.
AB: Clearly, humor and laughter pulled you through some embarrassing moments, like a gassy first trimester, and some irritating moments like strangers touching your belly. How can humor lighten the emotional load?
JM: I'm a big fan of laughing off steam instead of getting mad, of laughing the stress out instead of screaming at someone. I mean, wouldn't you rather laugh than cry? When you're pregnant, you often want to cry, you often want to yell...your emotions are going crazy because of all the hormonal changes.
Again, many readers have told me that being able to laugh at themselves -- and with others -- about these things has made a big difference in the way they've dealt with stress and with embarrassing moments. I know that being able to laugh about these things with my husband really helped us get through the tough times, too.
On Essential Support Systems
AB: Through your pregnancy and childbirth experience, you had a good support network -- husband, mother, and three sisters. What were some of the different ways you related to each of them?
JM: Well, my mom was a wonderful support because, of course, she'd had kids before, and could tell me what was normal, and what to pay attention to. She and my sisters were with my husband and me for the delivery, which I'm so grateful for because my son's delivery was kind of scary. It ended in an emergency c-section.
Throughout my whole pregnancy, my husband, John, was the best! Sure, I threw the remote control at him quite often, and yes, we certainly had some trying moments. But in the end, his was the shoulder I most wanted to lean on, and he was always there.
AB: In your book, you share "Husband No-Nos," little tidbits of advice for husbands and partners. Aside from, "Do not try to win an argument," and "Do not deny me my cravings," what other nuggets should pregnant women share with their men?
JM: Husbands shouldn't gawk at another woman, or compliment the way she looks. Also, with the exception of the belly, which is supposed to expand, don't comment on the parts of the body that are getting bigger!
They also shouldn't disregard her when a pregnant woman says she has to pee. There's no doubt about it -- believe her when she says she has to go now!
On What's Next
AB: Kudos to you! Proceeds of your book go to Candie's Foundation, which has a mission to educate teens about the consequences of teenage pregnancy. How did you decide on this organization, and why?
JM: I've been a member of the board for three years, and I've done many public service announcement commercials to get the word out. I couldn't do a preggo book and not at least offer a link to get more information, and have a portion of the proceeds go to the foundation.
My favorite slogan for the Candie's Foundation is "Being sexy doesn't mean you have to have sex." And if I have any young girls look up to me, maybe I can make a difference in their lives.
AB: Evan, your son, was born to you and your husband, John Asher, in May of 2002. How has mommyhood been the best job you've ever had?
JM: Everything about life has changed since Evan was born. And life is all about him now. I was telling someone recently that work has changed for me, too. I still want to choose my scripts carefully, but I've gotta tell ya, if someone wanted to pay me a lot of money to do tampon commercials, I'd probably do them! I mean, we've got college tuition to think about now!
AB: As you look to the future (and maybe contemplate Baby No. 2!), is there anything you would do different?
JM: Well, now that I know what to expect -- or at least some of what to expect -- I'll be less afraid and less freaked out about things that happen in pregnancy No. 2 (fingers crossed). I'll also know not to use a hot tub and risk hard boiling my baby -- something I discovered only while in the tub last time!