When Mexican soap opera star Salma Hayek first came to the United States, she found few roles for Latina women. But over the past two decades, she's become a leading lady and started her own production company, Ventanarosa, which backs the TV series Ugly Betty. On September 21, 2007, Hayek and fiance Francois-Henri Pinault had their first child, Valentina. Motherhood led Hayek to team up with Pampers' 1 Pack = 1 Vaccine campaign, which donates money to UNICEF. While pregnancy is not all roses, she says that becoming a mom at 41 is the best thing that's ever happened to her.
Salma Hayek

Pregnancy ProblemsI got gestational diabetes, which I didn't realize at first. It occurs in women who have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. I didn't know whether I was feeling bad because I was pregnant or whether something was seriously wrong. I was nauseated for nine months, which can be one of the symptoms.

Minor MistakesIf I had it to do over again, I wouldn't eat so much fruit at the beginning. I didn't know that eating fruit that is high in sugar is not recommended when you have gestational diabetes. But you know what? At least I had fruit. In a lot of countries, they don't have these kinds of choices.

Motherhood and UNICEFI was ignorant when I was pregnant, and that was a weird sensation, not knowing what was good for my body and what was bad. The UNICEF campaign is tied into ending that kind of ignorance. People are giving birth in Third World countries and performing rituals that have been passed down to them, such as sealing the umbilical cord with dirt -- but tetanus enters the area, and both the mother and baby die soon after. So anything that I could complain about in my own pregnancy seems silly. I have a beautiful, healthy baby, and it just makes me more aware of the threats that mothers and babies in other countries face.

Making the Most of the Early YearsPregnancy is all a blur now. But I remember the advice that my aunt gave me -- my aunt who never had any babies. She spent some time with us when Valentina was not even 1 month old, and she said to me, "Put her to sleep yourself every night. Sing to her and cradle her in your arms and sit by her side -- every night. Because one day, you won't be able to carry her anymore, and it's going to happen really fast."

Something Only Parents KnowPeople always say about having a child, "You've never loved anyone so much. It's like nothing you've ever felt. You'll love her so much, you won't be able to sleep." My reaction was analytical; I was like, "Okay, yes, I understand that." But unless you experience it, you cannot understand what they're talking about. I thought I understood. But I didn't. It's a kind of love that's just unique to this experience!

Originally published in the August 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.

American Baby