Shawn Johnson East On What She's Realized From Parenting: 'You Have to Learn the Hard Way With Everything'

The retired Olympic gold medalist talks pregnancy cravings, raising a toddler during the pandemic, and how being a mom has made her even more eager to give back.

An image of Shawn Johnson East.
Photo: Getty Images

They say every pregnancy is different and Shawn Johnson East can attest to that. The former Olympic gymnast says her second pregnancy has been totally different than her first with polar opposite symptoms and food cravings.

"With my daughter, I craved nothing but watermelon," she says. "Now with this guy, I crave eggs and avocado and right now ice for some reason."

One thing she's also been loving is chocolate, making it all that much sweeter to join forces with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals for "Raising the 'Bar' to Help Kids," a new campaign that's raising funds for children's hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. Now through August 13, Ferrero's Crunch, Butterfinger, and Baby Ruth will feature limited-edition wrappers with artwork drawn by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals' child ambassadors and sales will benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

The retired Olympic gold medalist first became involved with the Children's Miracle Network as a teen Olympian and has made several visits to the hospitals since. But helping out feels even more important now that she's a parent. "It really hits home," she says. "As a parent, I can't imagine being in that situation."

Johnson East and husband Andrew East are parents to 1-year-old Drew Hazel and expecting a baby boy close to the Olympic opening ceremonies in late July. "All the late nights with a newborn, I will be watching all of it," says Johnson East, who has been documenting family life in fun Instagram and YouTube posts.

Looking back on her own Olympic journey, Johnson East says she brings some of those lessons into her parenting. A big one: "Failure is the only way to succeed."

"I feel like as a parent, it's all foreign territory. And you just kind of have to learn the hard way with everything," she says. "I think for me and my husband, we just take things with a grain of salt and not to obsess too much on perfection."

That mindset is how the couple has been navigating pandemic parenting, although Johnson East says it's been a "crazy" time. "On top of all the unknowns of the pregnancy, the pandemic definitely made it a little scarier," she says. Taking care of a very active toddler at the same time has been no joke. "Being pregnant though with a toddler—it's definitely crazy. It makes pregnancy life a little bit more intense," adds Johnson East. "But we're excited; we cannot wait for our little man to get here."

She's also looking forward to Drew meeting her little sibling. "I think she's going to be amazing," says Johnson East. "My sister-in-law just had a baby, her third. And we were fortunate enough to be able to go visit and my daughter just fell in love with him and just the concept of Baby. She was so gentle and she's just a little lover, so I think she's gonna love him."

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

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