Dania Ramirez: "Everything becomes about something bigger than me."
Dania Ramirez is one happy mama. With twins toddling around at home—Gaia and Aether, 18 months—and the third season of the television success Devious Maids premiering tonight, the actress is embracing motherhood and all the joy that comes with it. Parents chatted with the Latina mommy about raising twins, how she plans to integrate her language and culture into family life (hint: tasty food), and how being a parent impacts her emotional performance.
P: Your twins are almost 18 months. Do you feel like you had to learn mom things twice as fast because you have two?
DR: Before I had them I did feel that pressure of "Oh my God, I'm gonna be a mom," and I wanted to be perfect. Then they both came and there's been no time to second guess myself. I do what I can to make sure they'll turn out like great human beings and productive members of society and show them a lot of love. The fact that I have two, I really don't have that much time to wonder whether what I'm doing is right or wrong. I just make sure that they're not jumping off the couch, because that's what they're doing at 18 months.
P: Are they like little monkeys?
DR: They love to climb things. They're so smart. It's also because there's two of them. So one of them starts doing something and then it kind of instigates the other one to start doing it at the same time. It's the best workout for me. I don't have to go to the gym much. I feel like I'm running from one end to the next and carrying both of them. It's so fulfilling and amazing and just rewarding to see them just turning to these really happy people.
P:You mention that there's not much time to second guess yourself and I think for a lot of new moms people say, "Trust your instincts." Were you able to find your instincts?
DR: I do think it automatically comes with the territory. You almost go into this survival mode. You feel like you can do anything and you can save them from anything. That's what happened to me and it is about trusting your instincts. I feel like I can handle everything and I think that's the key. I also had my children at a time that I felt like I really wanted to have children. If you have patience—not just with the kids, but with yourself—and if you allow yourself to make mistakes, everything does work itself out.
P: What is the most rewarding part of motherhood?
DR: It's just this unconditional, different kind of love. That's the most rewarding. It's not like love you feel for someone you fall in love with, I mean I love my husband more than anything, but it's not that. It's just something that keeps growing and the minute you think you can't love them anymore, you just love them a little bit more. Everything becomes about something bigger than me. It's incomparable.
P: With any new baby, but especially with twins, there have to be some moments that are challenging, as well. What are some of the most challenging things?
DR: The first three months of having a baby period I think are the most stressful. Your body, your soul, everything has belonged to them the minute they're inside you and then you have them and you think maybe I'm going to have a little bit of myself back, but right away you don't. Especially if you're breastfeeding at the beginning. That's the hardest part about having two. No one can help. By the time I was done feeding one and burping one and changing a diaper, the other one was ready and I just wasn't getting any sleep. Being sleep-deprived and feeling like I didn't have any me time was definitely the hardest part of having a baby and for me having two just made it extreme.
P: Having fraternal twins, one boy one girl, is not something we get to talk about that often. What's it like raising a little boy and little girl at the same time?
DR: You know they're so different. The way their brains sort of work is totally different. Aether has been such a boy —he'll crash into things and he'll bump his head and he's like "I'm fine." Gaia is a lot more calculated. She tests things out first. She's a lot more conservative in that way and I guess careful. They're both very emotional. I think Gaia has a different level of understanding sometimes. She knows how to manipulate better.
P: Oh goodness. That will get fun as she gets older.
DR: It's definitely a lot of fun. They also have each other. If it's nap time and they both get up, they'll just start talking like twin language. Sometimes I'll just have the camera on and I'll watch them. They look like they're completely understanding each other and just having this entire conversation in this language that nobody understands. That's pretty cool to watch in twins. They have their moments when they're totally happy and hanging out and they have their moments where they seem like they're arguing with each other. I try to write these twin scripts in my head to figure out what their thoughts are.
P: You mention they kind of have their own twin language and when it comes to language I know you've said you want to raise them bilingual. What do you do specifically to cultiave the knowledge of both English and Spanish?
DR: I have all of these Little Einstein tapes in English, so they watch a lot of English television. But everyone that watches them, including myself, will talk to them in Spanish. My husband doesn't speak Spanish. He'll talk to them in English, my stepson talks to them in English, so I speak to them in English when I'm with the family. They're going to end up watching television and going to school and learning English and that will be a given. So I want to make sure they have a good sense of both languages and Spanish early on because it kind of just stays with you.
I also try to bring them home to the Dominican Republic and I'm thinking of going back sometime soon after I'm done filming our third season. My grandmother who raised me until I was 10 still lives there, my parents still live there. I would like them to have that as part of their culture. It's super important to me and I know it will benefit them in the future.
P: Aside from bringing them to the Dominican Republic, how will you incorporate that culture here?
DR: Food. Food and music. I think that's kind of the key for integrating any kind of Latin.
P: Do you cook traditional dishes?
DR: I grew up cooking. We were very poor, both my parents worked, so I started cooking when I was 12. I cooked one day, my older sister cooked the next day. I cook rice and beans and they love it. They're like rice babies. I started feeding them that kind of food early on, so they can grow up with a big palette. I'm trying to have them grow up very worldly.
P: Your character on Devious Maids has a son for whom she sacrificed a lot. How has becoming a mom impacted your approach to Rosie and to playing not only a Latina woman but a Latina mom?
DR: It has influenced a lot. I always say life experience is your best acting school. There's just a certain truth that can come out in a performance when you're living something. That's where I'm at when it comes to Rosie. I always felt I was telling my mother's story—how she had to leave me behind when I was younger. I got to tap into what the experience must have been like for her. I didn't really understand the kind of strength and emotion that it took for her to be able to leave me behind so we could end up with a better future. It wasn't something I could connect to before. I feel like I can connect to now. There is a subtleness in Rosie since I became a parent in the way that I treat my relationship with my son on the show.
Photograph: Credit Michael Mordler