For years, actress, producer, and comedian Anna Faris has endeared herself to audiences with hilarious performances in funny flicks like House Bunny and shows like Mom. But off-screen, the celeb mom, who shares 5-year-old son Jack with ex-husband Chris Pratt, is speaking out on a serious cause. On January 30, Faris shared on her podcast Unqualified that she was launching a CrowdRise fundraiser for the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an organization raising awareness and doing innovative research to improve maternal, newborn, and child health outcomes around the world.
Parents.com recently chatted with Faris about the campaign -- even getting a special thank you from Jack, as well! Here, the big-hearted star opens up about her personal journey as a mom, what attracted her to working with GAPPS, and words of wisdom she wants to share with other preemie parents.
Parents.com: Improving birth outcomes is such a huge, important cause. How did your experience with Jack inspire you to support GAPPS' work?
Anna Faris: We started this campaign, because my son Jack — a lot of people know this, obviously — he was born 9 weeks early, at 31 weeks, and he was 3.5 pounds. And it was terrifying and completely unexpected. I felt like I had been having a really normal pregnancy, I felt really good. So, when my water broke in the middle of the night, and I called my doctor — I was so naive about it too, I thought, like, 'Well, this doesn't smell like pee. My water has probably broken, but they'll probably just put some more liquid back up in there, and send me on my way!' I was in denial, I was having a really hard time processing what exactly was going on. And I was 35, which is apparently, my OB/GYN said that's the age when you start being called a 'geriatric mother,' which was unnerving. So, my father who is heavily involved in the nonprofit and medical community up in Seattle, which is where I grew up, became friends with this brilliant doctor Dr. Craig Rubens, who started this campaign called GAPPS — the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth. [Prematurity] has been on rise in the last decade and is now the leading cause of death in newborns worldwide, and so, Chris and I and Jack are trying to raise money to research this increasingly common problem.
Parents.com: How did your own experience with Jack foster that connection with other parents of preemies?
Anna Faris: We were so fortunate to have the most amazing team of doctors and nurses at Cedars-Sinai here in Los Angeles, and it was interesting because it was such a cross-section of community. Chris and I would be there every day for hours and hours, and it was such a common bond [with other parents]. We were, at first, the new, scared parents, and then, we sort of became the veterans, essentially, at the NICU and watching other new parents from all walks of life and recognizing the fear in everybody’s eyes. You know, is their child going to be okay? So, it's become a passion project for me.
Parents.com: What in particular about GAPPS as an organization and Dr. Rubens' research appealed to you?
Anna Faris: Because it's not an area of biomedicine that receives a ton of other attention or profit, it's been largely neglected. And Dr. Rubens is a humanitarian. He's in this for the long-haul, and I love that he's a man who's truly passionate about investigating why the numbers of prematurity and stillbirth have skyrocketed. I'm attracted to [GAPPS' work], not only because it's a cause that's so personal to me, but also, because the people are selflessly compassionate -- and passionate.
Parents.com: What words of wisdom would you share with other parents of preemies?
Anna Faris: It is such a lonely feeling and there's a sense of failure. I kept asking my doctor, 'What did I do wrong?' I didn’t eat salami, I didn’t drink, smoke. Where did I go wrong? And she would just sort of pat my shoulder and say like, 'This is — we don’t know, there's nothing you did. We just don’t know the answers.' And I think the slow acceptance, the release of maternal guilt which, apparently, I'm also starting to suspect, it lingers for a lifetime! But sort of letting go -- that's the advice I would give to new moms. And you know, with my friends, every pregnancy has its complications, whether its an umbilical cord or C-section or not being able to nurse or whatever it is. It's an incredible time of life, but it's also a traumatic time, psychologically and physically. So, I think it's important to acknowledge that we're all in this together. And reaching out to community is incredibly important, and also like, giving into the idea that you’re gonna feel like you know, there was something that could have been improved upon, so your kid could potentially one day get into Harvard where they'll spend all your money and then drop out.
Parents.com: How do you recommend people get involved?
Anna Faris: We're excited to have this contest where people can donate $10 as many times as they want, and win a trip to Los Angeles, get put up at a hotel, join me for a podcast, become a buddy, and hopefully, we can create awareness and potentially help fund research for this incredible cause.
Donors will be eligible to win a trip to Los Angeles and hang out Anna Faris for the day and be her guest host on her podcast. To view the CrowdRise fundraiser, please visit: www.crowdrise.com/unqualified.