OITNB's Dascha Polanco Opens Up About Feeling 'Shame' After Getting Pregnant at 17
Dascha Polanco opens up in Parents Latina's June/July issue about being a mom to son Aryam, 11, and daughter Dasany, 18
Dascha Polanco is tapping into her roots to continue to be the mother she always wanted to be.
The Orange Is the New Black star poses alongside son Aryam, 11, and daughter Dasany, 18, for the cover of Parents Latina's June/July issue, where she opens up about welcoming Dasany at age 17 and the hurdles that came not only in the form of her difficult financial situation, but the judgment she faced from others — and being "the shame of [her] family."
"One night, my best friend's father said, 'What you're doing is horrible,' and he embarrassed me in front of everyone. I'll never forget that," says Polanco, 37. "But I was making the best decision that I could. I knew that having a baby was going to make my life harder, but I was also determined to turn every obstacle into a blessing."
Over "the next four years," while the actress attended college, she "wouldn't tell people" she was a mom. "I'd let them find out, and when they were like, 'You're a mom?!' I pretended I didn't care," Polanco says. "But it made me feel self-conscious and affected my confidence."
While her own mother "cried so hard" upon finding out Polanco was pregnant, she recalls later how "close" her mom, who died when the star was still in college, ultimately got to Dasany. "She'd actually call my mom Mami and me Dascha-Mom," Polanco says of her daughter.
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The time after her mother's death was difficult for Polanco. As a result, she found herself "harboring so much sadness, anger, and depression" and having negative feelings toward motherhood.
"One day I finally opened up to one of my psychology professors," she says. "I told her I hated being a mother, and ever since my mom passed, I didn't celebrate anything. She told me the reason I got angry was that I had a subconscious jealousy of my daughter, because she had her mother and I didn't have mine."
"I was like, 'Oh my God, I never thought of that!' She told me I wasn't being fair to my daughter by not providing her with good memories," Polanco recalls, going on to share that she graduated college on the dean's list and became a hospital-operating-room manager.
"In that world, I was That Bitch," she tells Parents Latina. "I became a boss, and I was finally living my life."
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Polanco has learned a lot of lessons about motherhood in her 18 years since welcoming Dasany — and has no problems telling her daughter's friends now, " 'You need to appreciate your mom, because she is the only one who will always be there for you.' They've all had a 'Dascha Cry Session,' but they keep coming back."
And there are no gender roles when it comes to chores in her world. "In my house, everything is 50-50," Polanco says. "You sweep, you mop. It's all about equality."
Still, the In the Heights actress says "there are certain things I wish I could've done differently" — for example, activities that weren't available to her financially, such as putting Dasany in sports or a camp: "I constantly have to remind myself to let that go."
And now, "I allow myself to be vulnerable. I'm able to apologize. I'm able to say, 'We don't do that in this house' or 'I'm your mother, not your friend,' " Polanco adds. "It's okay to make mistakes. Every mother is just raising her kids to the best of her ability, and the more time passes, the more you learn that."