As a first-time parent, Ali Fedotowsky-Manno has learned to ask for help — but it took a few months.
Speaking to Fit Pregnancy and Baby for their August cover story (featuring photos with baby Molly Sullivan, who just turned 1!), the former Bachelorette recalls a time just a few months ago when she realized she had to reach out.
“For the first eight months of Molly’s life, we never had anyone else watch her — not even a family member,” says. Fedotowsky-Manno, 32, who wed TV and radio host Kevin Manno in early March. “After months of no breaks and little sleep, I legit had a mental breakdown.”
As she describes, “I remember I was in our kitchen, crying to Kevin on the phone, saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I need help.’ I was holding Molly. She was screaming. I was screaming. It was like out of a movie — I lost my mind.”
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Fortunately, the new mom and dad eventually “learned to ask for help, whether it meant leaning on friends or calling our moms and asking them to fly out and stay with us for a week,” with Fedotowsky-Manno explaining, “and now we have a part-time nanny who comes once or twice a week.”
The overwhelming change of becoming a first-time mom wasn’t due to Fedotowsky-Manno taking on all the parenting duties, though — in fact, she isn’t a fan of the assumption that dads are doing moms a favor by caring for their own children.
“When people ask, ‘Does your husband help?’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ Why do people assume the baby is Mom’s job?” she asks. “I say, ‘No, he’s her dad. He parents her.’ Kevin and I are a 50/50 team. He tries to be there every step of the way.”
The couple do play to their individual strengths, though. “Molly comes to me for nurturing but she looks to Daddy to make her laugh. Oh my God, Daddy makes her laugh!”
Fedotowsky-Manno has enjoyed the first year of her family of three more than she thought possible, but is also honest about it not being all roses. “Motherhood, in every single aspect, is harder than I thought it would be,” she admits. “Kevin and I knew it would be a challenge, but we had this very romanticized version of how it would be.”
She expands, “Like, ‘Oh, we’ll have this beautiful little human who’s going to look like both of us who we’re going to love so much.’ That’s true, but I don’t think I sat back and thought about how hard it is being a parent.”
“Everyone tells you, ‘Your life is going to completely change,’ but no matter how many times I heard that, I couldn’t have possibly prepared myself,” adds the fashion blogger.
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Fedotowsky-Manno isn’t one of those moms with babies who sleep through the night as soon as they come home from the hospital.
“Molly did not want to sleep! I expected that with a newborn I’d be up every three hours. But when she turned 6 months, 7 months, 8 months, and she was still waking up every three hours, we got a sleep coach,” she says. “We learned that she was overtired, and because of that, she wouldn’t sleep. It was a horrible cycle. Sleep training was the best thing we ever did for her.”
The mom of one is still breastfeeding her daughter. And although she confesses, “I don’t know how long I’m going to make it,” there’s a big pro for her in continuing for the time being.
“I barely had any pain when I started, and I always had a great supply,” she shares. “Every time I breastfeed Molly, I’m famished afterward. I feel it’s like a workout. I’m afraid when I stop breastfeeding, I’m going to gain a bunch of weight.”
Considering Molly just turned 1, is it time to start thinking about baby No. 2 yet? “We definitely want to have a second baby. We’ve always said two. I don’t know if it gets harder when a second child comes into the mix. If it does, please help me,” jokes Fedotowsky-Manno.
“A lot of people say it actually gets easier because the children keep each other company,” she adds. “I hope that’s the case, because, if not, I’m in big trouble.”