Celebrity moms share their stories on the final episode of That New Mom Life.

By Rebecca Rakowitz
May 04, 2021
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An image of a mother and her baby.
Credit: Getty Images.

After a season full of discussing the not-always-fun parts of new motherhood, episode 12 is all about reminiscing on the good. 

Just like with every episode, the final one includes personal stories from new moms. This time, five of our favorite well-known moms—an actress, an activist, two entrepreneurs, and an Olympian—share their favorite memories and words of wisdom from the postpartum period.

"I think the coolest part of being a mom is seeing how your baby changes every single day," said Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East. "Seeing her smile for the first time and laugh for the first time and move her legs and stand up for the first time. All of it. It's like the greatest moments of my life."

Then, Julia Edelstein, editor-in-chief of Parents, joins That New Mom Life to discuss the beautiful memories, necessary lessons, and personal growth that happen postpartum. As she talks about the blissful moments, she also reminds moms that it's ok to not feel that way.

"There's nothing in particular about postpartum that is supposed to be your favorite time in motherhood," Edelstein said. "If you didn't enjoy it, it doesn't mean that you're never going to enjoy motherhood."

And though it's been said all season long, a final reminder never hurts: you're not alone, trust your instincts, ask for help, and hang in there mom, you're doing great!

The full season of That New Mom Life is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, PlayerFM, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Listen and share with all your new mom friends!

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Grace: I think motherhood and nostalgia go hand in hand, even when our kids are asleep and we get to enjoy those few blissful moments to ourselves. We're still looking at their photos and marveling at how fast they grow. 

Desiree: This time does go so fast and even though things were very difficult for me the first time around, it's been such a redeeming experience with Cambria. 

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Grace: Hi, I'm Grace Bastidas and welcome to the final episode of That New Mom Life. 

Desiree: I'm Desiree Fortin and this time we're going to reflect on the first months of our lives as moms. 

Grace: Today you're going to hear from a woman whose job it is to empower moms at all stages of parenthood. As editor-in-chief of Parents, Julia Edelstein knows full well that when it comes to motherhood, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The only thing certain is that raising kids changes us forever!

Desiree: But first, we reached out to some of our favorite well-known moms, and asked them to share their memories of new motherhood. Sit back and enjoy! 

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Nathalie Walton: My name is Nathalie Walton and I am the CEO of Expectful. One of my favorite memories from the newborn days actually happened in the NICU.

After watching the expert NICU nurses bathe my son, one day I decided that it was time for me to give it a try. The experience at first was quite harrowing, I was messing up, water was splashing all over the place, and I got so frustrated. But during the process, I looked at my son, and even though I had no idea what I was doing, it was very clear that he was being patient with me. 

And it was in that moment that I realized that even though I'm a new mom, my son is also a new human and in this, we would both figure out how to be mom and baby together. And that moment brought me so much joy because it allowed me to relax and realize that I am the perfect mom for my son.

And so, my advice to anyone that is going through a similar phase is that it's definitely a challenging process. There will be bad days and there will be terrible days. There'll also be good days too. This process of becoming a parent will make you stronger than you ever thought was possible. 

Carmen Perez Jordan: My name is Carmen Perez Jordan, I am the mother of two little ones, the CEO and president of the Gathering for Justice, and the co-founder of She Se Puede. I remember when my child, the first one latched for the first time, I actually didn't know what latch meant, and it was such a shock to me that a nurse would actually touch my boob and latch a baby on me. 

And so I really felt this connection between me and my first born. I really loved the moments where I would nurse and have time with him. 

But if I had any advice for myself in my first postpartum, I would actually tell myself to take time off of work. I didn't take any time off while I was bonding with my firstborn. And so therefore, I took my child everywhere with me, and I would really like to take that time back. 

And so with my second one I actually took time off, and I got to spend time with both my children, and it's been such a joy. They both have super different personalities, one is super active, and the second is really chill. 

So just enjoy the journey, know that not everyone's advice is the right advice and so make the best decision for yourself. 

Angela Lewis: Hi, I'm Angela Lewis, proud new mama to a precocious 17-month-old. I also play Aunt Louie on FX's Snowfall

My neighbors have this motion sensor light on their porch and, if I move the wrong way in my bedroom, it sets off that sensor and the light comes on. And it's kind of bright, but it's a moon-glow bright, and it's really annoying, except in those early days postpartum, it really saved me. I didn't have to get up to turn on the light, like it was still dark enough where everyone could stay asleep or sleepy, and I could see. 

And I just remember many days where, especially in the beginning, when we had a house full of family, it would be my daughter and myself up, and I would be changing her diaper or nursing her back to sleep, and sometimes she would just look up at me. And it was like, she knew we were the only two up. 

And then sometimes it felt even more loaded than that, like she knew, like this is a life moment. This is how life is going to be. And she would look at me with such trust and such love in her eyes. I never knew my heart could be broken open so much, but man, I always just felt like, yeah, baby, it's you and me. We got this. So much love. 

Kimberly Swarth: My name is Kimberly Swarth, and I'm the founder and CEO of Onzie Active Apparel. The craziest memories of newborn life is really the pumping and the feeding in the workplace, and being around individuals that have no sense of what that is. And getting comfortable in the body to say, "Wow, I am pumping during a meeting. I am going to have my son come in during a strategy meeting and actually have my breast out in front of people."

And it's OK. And it's actually beautiful. And I can say that now, but during those moments, that was really hard and embarrassing or felt inappropriate. And I'm just so grateful that I was able to integrate that life in front of employees, because one day they probably will have to do and face the same thing. And they'll remember that moment of seeing their you know, boss or what have you, pumping or nourishing their own child even at work.

We realize as women and even having children that we really are superhuman. And even though we may not know it, anything's possible. Uh! There we go. There's a little one. 

Shawn Johnson East: Hi, I am Shawn Johnson East, wife, mom, Olympian, and New York Times bestselling author. I would say my favorite memory from when Drew was an infant, I don't think I can think of just one, because I think the coolest part of being a mom is seeing how your baby changes every single day. Seeing her smile for the first time and laugh for the first time and like move her legs and stand up for the first time. All of it. It's like the greatest moments of my life.

And if I go back and tell myself anything, when she was born, it's that being a mom, it's impossible to be perfect. I feel like we all strive to be like that perfect mom. And you fail miserably every day, but learn together and just kind of raise a human being. And it's so much fun, and it's so much better than anybody could ever tell you. It's so much harder, but it's also easier at the same time because you love them more than you've ever thought possible. 

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Grace: I loved how every single one of those moms talked about how fast this time goes. That's exactly what we want to dig into with today's guest, editor-in-chief of Parents, Julia Edelstein.

Desiree: Julia gets to talk to moms from all walks of life, along with postpartum experts, every single day, and so we asked her to come and share that wisdom, as well as her own experience of becoming a mom.

Grace: Julia, so nice to have you on That New Mom Life. You talk to a lot of mothers. When you hear from moms about the postpartum period, what sticks out the most? What are the common threads? 

Julia: Well, I think first off, when we talk to new moms at Parents, we hear about sleep deprivation. That's the thing that I think bonds new moms, it's like what brings the new moms to the table to become friends. It's how tired they are or what they're doing to get their babies to sleep. 

But beyond that, when you go a little deeper, I think that moms look back on this time as a really transformational time for their identity, and I think for a lot of moms, they didn't feel like they 100 percent became an adult until they became a mom, and they suddenly got it.

They suddenly understood how their mom felt. They view their parents differently. They view their career differently. They view their money differently, and they view themselves differently. 

You know, for me, I felt that feeling of growing up, and it was a lot. The first few nights that I was home with my son, I remember my husband and I watched The West Wing because we just wanted to have a feeling of like going back to a simpler time when we didn't have this enormous responsibility of keeping a human being alive. 

And, you know, it was just, we needed to tune out, because it was just so overwhelming. And at night after he was asleep, like it would just come crashing down on us, "We're his parents." And it would be sort of nonstop all day and kind of fun and exciting and then that identity shift for me would happen at night. 

And I think a lot of moms talk about that. I think that that's what can make it, you know, so emotional, is just it hitting you, that you're a parent, your life is not really yours anymore, you can't leave your house when you want to, everything you do impacts someone else, and it's forever. 

Grace: And The West Wing offered the safety net of who you were once. 

Julia: I was just like, let me go back to the Clinton-era. I don't know. Things were simple then!

Grace: So Parents has been around for almost a hundred years. How do you think the magazine has redefined what it means to be a modern mom? 

Julia: You know, it's so interesting because I often think about Parents magazine as a time capsule of motherhood. I think that the main difference when we talk about the postpartum months is just that we're talking about it. 

So many of the topics that you guys have talked about on this podcast were just never even discussed, in mainstream media, in a parenting magazine. And women just sort of dealt with the emotions, and the physical impact of having a baby kind of silently or maybe with other women, but it wasn't something that they were getting from Parenting magazine. 

And today, authenticity really reigns supreme. And we have pushed past this idea of a perfect mom or having it all together, or, you know, doing everything with a smile on your face. What we have in the pages and the stories we tell are really authentic and revealing, and we want parents to, I guess, see that there's no one way to be a mom. And there's no one experience that you should be trying to have. Every experience of motherhood is valid. 

Grace: Amen to that. I love that. Let's keep talking about it, right. So you're a mom of two little boys, Julia. What's your happiest memories of those first months as a parent?

Julia: Well, I loved my first postpartum. And I don't want to say I hated my second, but it was close. 

Grace: You can say it. We're amongst friends here. 

Julia: And I think part of why I had such hard feelings about the second one was because the first was so amazing that it was just like such a letdown when things were so much harder the second time, and I was so such an emotional mess. But you know, when you have your second, I mean, there was a lot that was different in my life, and there's a lot that was different about my recovery.

But when you're on your second, you also have like another human being there, so it's just automatically different. But when I think back to the first one, like I think about joy. Even when I look at pictures of myself, in my postpartum, I can see that I have not smiled that huge and purely since that first year of motherhood. I was like on a high, and I loved it more than anything else. 

And I had a really good setup, like I had a generous maternity leave. I had a lot of help from my mom. I had my sister around who was also on maternity leave, and I was living in New York City, which was a great place to be walking around and meeting mom-friends. 

One of the memories that I think about the most is just sitting on my couch in my apartment, and it was quiet, it was like me and this baby. And I felt like such a rush of just being able to wake up and like spend the day with this perfect little baby and do whatever I want. And he happened to be like an amazing sleeper. He's not anymore. He was literally in my bed awake talking to me from 3-4 a.m. last night, so don't worry, like I paid for it! 

Grace: So you talk about the second, your second son, being not so good. And it was hard.

Julia: Well, it wasn't him, he was a sweet baby, but he wasn't a good sleeper. I had two vaginal births, and so with my first, like, it was really just like very standard, I recovered very normally. And with my second, first of all, between my first and second, my mom died and my husband was in a really rigorous fellowship— he's a doctor—and so he didn't really get any time off. 

I was grieving, he wasn't around, I had a totally insane 2-year-old at that point. Yeah, my little one just came. I mean, it was a simple birth, like he just came ripping right out of there, and he definitely, he did some damage on his way out to my internal organs to, to put it in a G-rated way. And in order to try to heal like the damage that had been done, I wasn't able to lift anything heavier than the baby, I guess similar to a C-section recovery, for about eight weeks. 

I couldn't push the stroller. It made me sad because I was missing my mom, and I had to hire babysitters to come help me put my older kid to bed because I couldn't lift him into his crib. It was just sort of a mess. 

Grace: How did those difficult times prepare you for motherhood? 

Julia: Well, I think what's interesting about the postpartum experience is that when you're in it, it feels— it almost feels like a continuation of pregnancy. And I don't know about you, but when I was pregnant, I thought like, I'm going to be pregnant forever. Like other people actually have their baby, but like, I'll just stay pregnant. It seemed like it would never end, time moves so slowly. 

And I felt like that too in the postpartum, like everything felt, because it was for the first time, like slow moving and like it would last forever. And I think that the lesson is that nothing lasts forever. Everything is a phase and you know, I think postpartum gives you a lot of practice in teaching yourself that as a mother. 

You have to do these things that feel so hard and sometimes when I'm researching articles for the magazine or we're planning content, I have to remember like that when you're postpartum and you're a mom for the first time, you obsess over small decisions that later you're like, why did I spend like 10 hours researching which infant car seat to get? 

But it's a lesson in how to make decisions later. It's a lesson in how to realize like what matters and what doesn't. And I remember moving my baby out of our bedroom and like how, how traumatic that was like with my first kid, like, just feeling so sentimental about it.

And it was like a little mini lesson in motherhood. Like I'm having to let go, you know? And I think postpartum just prepares you. It's just sort of like a little gentle crash course in the letting go and the decision making and everything else that you're going to have to do as a mom.

Grace: You talk about it not lasting forever. How did you manage to hold onto the memories? The little precious moments that you were trying to capture? 

Julia: I was really conscientious with my first about trying to catalog what was going on. I definitely had more time and like less stress in my head. And so it was something I really enjoyed. So, I started a Facebook album, which I don't know if that makes me sound old or if people still do that. But it was like a month-by-month of my baby, I actually did that for both my kids. 

Oh, this is like, my big tip is take a lot of pictures of your baby in their diaper. Because like you will, I swear to God, like, I look at these photos that I took every month of him in his diaper with those rolls and like every roll visible. And there's like nothing cuter than those rolls. 

So anyway, I took a picture of him every month, and I would try to write like a couple of things that he was doing and milestones. I wish I had written down more anecdotes, like more funny things he did or more of the beginnings of his personality. I also started an Instagram, it was mostly with the idea of cataloguing my kids. 

So, I never did a traditional baby book, but I do feel like probably one of the biggest silver linings of social media, even though it takes up so much of our time and energy and drains us in a lot of ways, is that like, it is a catalog. And I remember reading an essay by a mom who had raised her kids in the '90s, and she just said like how jealous she is when she sees moms today who can like in an instant pull up their baby laughing at three months, like she would give anything to be able to do that, and that technology didn't exist. 

And we can transport ourselves back, and we can see those rolls, and we can hear their little voices. That is magical. So, you know, I do think it takes the pressure off to do a baby book. Or to do something really formal because if you're just taking pictures and videos, like that's more than any mother ever had before us.

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Grace: So you talk about having two very different maternity leaves and postpartum experiences. And one was very tough, as you mentioned, how do we make peace with that? What advice can you give moms who maybe have been going through these few months and are finding it really tough going?

Julia: I think my experience with my first was unusual. But what I don't think is unusual about it is that I do think every mother gets some periods of motherhood that are a little more blissful and easier. And where she kind of looks around and is like, I love having a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old, I'm hitting my groove, my life is really working right now. 

And I think that if the postpartum was hard for you, or your baby didn't sleep, or you're having trouble bonding, to have faith that better days are coming. And there's nothing in particular about postpartum and your baby that is supposed to be your favorite time in motherhood. 

I mean, whether you like it or not, it's when you became a mother, and it's when you had to start. You had to start holding onto that identity and making peace with it and wrestling with it. But that doesn't mean you had to enjoy it, and if you didn't enjoy it, it doesn't mean that you're never going to enjoy motherhood. It's important not to put too much emphasis or too much pressure on yourself in the first three months. 

Grace: How did becoming a mom change you?

Julia: I really did feel myself change drastically when I became a mom. 

It really just totally changed my priorities and like changed what I consider to be a good day. Like going out with him, getting a coffee at a cafe, bringing him home, singing and dancing around our living room, that all made me really happy. 

And I also became much less self-conscious. I was just a self-conscious person worried about what people would think, trying to fit in. And then I just sort of was like, I don't want to raise a kid who has a mom who's like that. And it just almost like evaporated overnight. I was just like, I'm just done with that.

Grace: And you don't have any time to worry about these tiny things that really don't matter.

Julia: Right and you realize you have to stand up for yourself because if you don't stand up for yourself, how are you gonna stand up for your kid? Like, you suddenly realize that you have to have a voice, you can't be meek anymore. 

And so all of those things were like things I was waiting to feel as an adult, but like hadn't really developed. You know, and I was almost 30, and I was sort of waiting, waiting to feel like a little braver, and I think becoming a mother got me there. 

Grace: Finally, Julia, if you could go back and relive those postpartum months, would you change anything? Would you do anything differently? 

Julia: Yes. Well, of course I would do a few things differently.

You know, with my first, like I said, it was perfect, but with my second I think I would have just tried to relax a little bit more and maybe to get help a little sooner. Cause I was really in a funk, and I didn't go get help. I didn't see a therapist, I think probably for six months. 

It took me a long time to realize that the funk wasn't necessarily gonna lift on its own. Yeah, I wish I had treated myself a little better the second time.

Grace: I think you're echoing a lot of the advice that we've gotten so far on the podcast, where if you need help, ask for help. If something doesn't feel right, talk to somebody. 

Thank you so much for all your fabulous words and all your great advice and just sharing your story and being so open about your story, Julia, editor-in-chief of Parents. Thank you.

Julia: Thanks for having me and thanks for telling all these amazing stories of postpartum.

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Desiree: Well, that was a wonderful chat from Julia. And I feel like I can relate to her in many ways, in having two very different postpartum experiences. And for me, my postpartum experience with the triplets was very difficult. I struggled with postpartum depression. Even through this conversation, it's really hard for me to look back at that season of my life and find my favorite moments where there was joy, because I don't feel like I felt that. 

And then you fast forward five years, and here I am with Cambria, and it's so different. I've had so many special moments, things that I'm really cherishing, and I feel more joy. I mean, I'm tired as ever, but I definitely, I feel joyful, and I don't feel like I'm in that postpartum depression state. So it's definitely totally different. 

Grace: Yeah. You know, Julia talked about how she transformed as a person and kind of felt more like this adult. That was really her first real taste of adulthood. 

And I remember the moment I left the hospital, I knew life would never be the same. I remember sitting in the backseat of our car and just driving through the city, New York, same city where I was born and raised, and everything just looked different. The lights were brighter; the buildings were taller. 

It was as if I was seeing everything with new eyes, and I just felt this lump in my throat and suddenly, you know, I understood my mom. And understood what it means to have this unconditional love for somebody and to feel this great responsibility as well.

Desiree: Yes. I, gosh, I remember that same feeling coming home from the hospital with all the triplets, as we just stared at them like, "Oh boy!" It is such a huge responsibility. And just as you mentioned, and Julia talked about, we become moms, and it's almost like we become an adult. 

And for me, when I think a lot about myself as a mom, I feel like I became who I am now and I feel it brought me this confidence, where I can stand and know, like I'm doing a good job. I don't know what the heck I'm doing half the time, but I'm doing a good job, you know? And I think that, sometimes we just need to get to that point of like, "None of us know what we're doing, but as long as we have each other, it's good." You know? 

Grace: And another thing to remember is that. You know, the same way you talk about your triplets and Cambria. Like, every kid is so different, every experience is so different. I remember with my youngest discovering that she was a different person. Can you imagine that I had two kids and they're both different? 

I remember her crying a lot, this piercing cry. And with my oldest, I debated whether to give her a pacifier or not. We eventually did, and that calmed her down. So I tried the same thing with my little one, and she spat the pacifier out. I think it flew across the room. It wasn't her thing. And she wasn't afraid to let me know. And she has not held back ever since. She tells me what's on her mind. 

And that was my first realization that kids are just, they're all different people and made me appreciate that you kind of have to go with the flow sometimes, and they are their own people.

Desiree: Oh, that's so true. I mean, it's, it's just like, all kids are different and all our experiences in mothering them is different. I certainly have experienced that same exact thing with the triplets and with Cambria where I've tried things with Cambria and I'm like, "This worked with all three babies, like, how is it not working with you?"

You know? And she's like, "I'm my own girl over here. I got my own plans!"

Grace: That's why it's OK to ignore advice, you know? Sometimes even the most well-meaning words of wisdom aren't always right. You know, it's OK to find your own path. 

Desiree: Yes! Own your motherhood and find what that is for you because it's different for all of us. And I think that's where that confidence is birthed because we're just like, "We've got this," you know?

Grace: Do you remember the last of anything? You know, we talk about the first. The first time they smile, the first time they sleep through the night. But do you remember any lasts that stand out? 

Desiree: With Cambria, when she was too big for her bassinet, it was all of a sudden over. OK, you're not sleeping in that anymore. And I kind of felt sad, and I know that it's coming to just like, she's going to be transferring to her bedroom soon. 

And I can feel that ache of like, she's not going to be right next to me anymore, which sounds like amazing. But also like, "No," you know? like it is really hard, what about you?

Grace: It's totally bittersweet. When my youngest gave up breastfeeding, that totally caught me by surprise. And I hadn't thought about taking a photo of that experience because I didn't think I needed a photo with my boob out, right? 

And I just remember just trying to recreate it. I asked my husband to take a picture, and I put her up to my boob and I was like, come on, latch on kid. She wasn't having it. That moment had passed. 

And, you know, I know life with a newborn can feel really repetitive, and we do the same things over and over again, but I didn't realize how that could just suddenly end, and how I would feel about it. That's why my advice is just breathe in that baby smell when they're sleeping on your chest. Cause it doesn't last forever. So just don't rush it if you can help it. 

Desiree: Yes. Yeah. I think that's such great advice because the moments do, while you're in it, they feel like a lot. You know, you're sleep deprived, you're caring for your baby. You're just, you're trying to survive the day, but then all of a sudden you miss it because those moments are gone now. And when you can really just relish in that moment and soak it all up for what it is, I think that's when they become really extra special too, when you're a little bit more aware of that. And you can take a deep breath and remember this time that you had with your baby.

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Grace: Well, that's it—the final episode of That New Mom Life. We really hope you enjoyed having us along for the wild ride that is new motherhood. 

Desiree: We've loved joining you on this journey. Do tell all your mom, or mom to be friends that we're here for them too!

Grace : Big thanks to Julia Edelstein, editor-in-chief of Parents, to every single mom who's shared their story with us, and to our production team, Pod People; Rachael King, Matt Sav, and Sam Walker. 

Desiree: Check out parents.com/newmompodcast for more information on the show. 

Grace, it has been the best experience sharing this season of That New Mom Life with you!

Grace: Ah Desiree, I've had a blast with you, thank you so much for being so open about all the highs and lows with your little ones!

And don't forget—these first few months are just the start of a joyful, exciting, discombobulating, and often overwhelming life as a parent. But whatever life throws at you, always remember, hang in there mom, you're doing great.