L.A. shower – almost 8 months – Courtesy Elisa Donovan
Best known for her roles as Amber in Clueless and Morgan on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Donovan currently stars in the ABC Family franchise The Dog Who Saved Christmas. The latest installment, The Dog Who Saved the Holidays, will premiere this fall. Following that, she will costar in MoniKa, set for release in 2013.
Donovan, 41, is also a writer and yogi. A recovered anorexic, she assists in counseling and supporting young women struggling with eating disorders.
She lives in San Francisco with her fiancé, Charlie Bigelow, and their 4-month-old daughter Scarlett Avery. The couple will wed on Oct. 13, 2012.
My fiancé knew I was pregnant from reading a supermarket tabloid. Not because I had given the magazine an exclusive on my belly. And not because a stealth paparazzi stalked me outside of Whole Foods and snapped a pic of me in sweatpants and enormous sunglasses, stuffing an ice cream cone in my mouth while looking suspiciously pudgy but not quite fat.
No, he knew of my state by reading an article about Jennifer Aniston.
Let’s be clear on one thing right now: I am officially outing my fiancé as a closet tabloid reader. Actually, “reader” doesn’t quite capture his relationship with these magazines. “Devout devourer” is more accurate. The fact that he is a 35-year-old man who works in finance should be noted. He is also an avid watcher of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Go figure.
With this knowledge, it’s easy to see how apropos it is that Charlie should learn of his impending parenthood from his main source of breaking news. In this article, a reputable physician stated that clearly Jennifer Aniston was pregnant based on her symptoms, which consisted of “a bloated belly, sore breasts, exhaustion and general symptoms of PMS.”
Since I had begun each of the prior 10 days saying to Charlie, “OHMYGOD I’m so bloated! My boobs are killing me. I’m going to get my period any second…” and ended every day with, “SO weird I didn’t get it. I’m so getting it tomorrow!” Charlie used his powers of deduction and as I exited the lavatory of the airplane we were on stated, “You’re pregnant.”
(Note: As this occurred 12 months ago, unless Jennifer Aniston is having the longest pregnancy in recorded history, not to mention disguising it uncannily well, that doc might have been a little off in his prediction. Charlie however, turned out to be spot on.)
It’s not that my pregnancy was a complete surprise (we had decided about a month before not to start trying, but to stop not trying), it’s just that we didn’t think we’d be successful quite so quickly. (Charlie likes to take all of the credit for this. I had never thought about the immense pride a man feels in being so … manly. Surely my years of acupuncture, yoga, organic eating and herb-taking were merely coincidental. It’s all just because he’s such a stud!)
We were extremely grateful that we were so fortunate, though I’m not sure we were quite ready for the now very real, very imminent arrival of OUR KID.
After staring at the blue plus sign on the EPT test in our bathroom, I secretly had the shameful sensation of wanting just another month or so before becoming pregnant. Just a little extra corner of time in order to prepare, to get ready, to — I don’t know … drink wine more heavily? Go out salsa dancing til 2 a.m.? To squeeze the marrow out of my non-parent adulthood?
It was a familiar feeling, like that of wanting just one more day of vacation, or wanting to stay up just an hour later when I was 10. However, I was 40 years old. How much longer did I really think I needed?
Baby’s first party hat – six months pregnant on my birthday – Courtesy Elisa Donovan
The cruel irony of the first trimester of pregnancy is that you aren’t supposed to tell anyone that you’re pregnant, yet you feel more pregnant and bereft of sanity than at any other phase of the process. I felt like a Martian. A pudgy and bloated Martian, masquerading as a human; trying to act like non-pregnant people do, and walk like non-pregnant people do, and talk like non-pregnant people do.
Your body is suddenly no longer your own, and it feels like you’ve been invaded by foreign bodies … which in essence, I suppose you have. Your body is going through such a massive change unlike any other, a change that is so new and so intense, it feels like you must be able to see it on the outside.
Everywhere I went I assumed everyone could tell, like I instantly had the belly of an eight months pregnant woman, or like it was tattooed on my forehead. In restaurants, waiters would ask, “What can I get you?” and I would respond, “I know! I’m SOO pregnant! I’ll have a club soda!”
One day in yoga when I was about five weeks pregnant, a young guy recognized me and asked me if I was me. (This is always a somewhat surreal experience when someone asks, “Are you Elisa Donovan?” to begin with. Almost as surreal as when I’m asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Elisa Donovan?” My response to this inquiry is generally, “Surprisingly often, yes.”)
So this guy asks me if I’m me, and I say, “Yes, and I’m pregnant!! I mean, I’m not supposed to tell anyone, so you know, don’t say anything, but it’s so obvious, right?! I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep it to myself!! I might hurl any second!” I’m sure he thought I was a complete loon, but at least I left him with a good story — “Yeah, that redhead from Clueless is a total wacko.”
Then there’s the slow and steady loss of your mind. I had the sense that my body was constantly working on something other than what I was physically doing at any given moment (which is most definitely true), and so I felt this constant distractedness. I’d be having a conversation with someone and then realize I had only heard snippets of what was said, usually leaving out the pertinent information. (“I’ll pick you up at ___. Be ready. And don’t forget to bring your ____.”)
My memory completely left me for the simplest and most familiar of things. One day I was ordering a burrito to-go in a taco joint (anyone who knows me would agree, the fact that I was in a taco joint at all, let alone ordering a burrito, is proof positive something was askew).
“I’ll have the Baja burrito with –” and suddenly I drew a blank. I stood there staring and smiling at the guy behind the counter, hoping he could read my mind. “With…?” he asked. “Yeah … Ahh — it’s green … it’s, it’s, it’s — sort of thick, kind of like a sauce…? Not a sauce, but a –” I started to gesticulate wildly, “…a sauce?”
“…Guacamole,” he said, deadpan. “You want guacamole on it?” “YES! That’s it!! Guacamole!!” I laughed at our shared joke assuming he was totally on board. “Ha! I’m telling you, sometimes it’s tough!” “…Right,” he said, looking at me like I was high and from Mars.
Then there’s the morning sickness. I had the misconception that “morning sickness” happened in the morning (call me crazy), and that you just threw up once or twice and then went about your day. For me it felt like the worst hangover imaginable coupled with jet lag, and it lasted for three to four months straight.
Charlie would leave for work in the morning, and I would be in bed in sweatpants. He would come home from work in the afternoon, and I would be on the couch in sweatpants. I was horizontal virtually all day and night, sitting up from time to time to eat some Saltines or take a sip of ginger ale. It was the worst.
One day Charlie came home and sat next to me on the couch. He stroked my head, an oily, matted-down mess of hair, and gently whispered: “Listen E … you have to take a shower. At some point, you really need to take a shower.”
I thought my reply was not only logical but exemplified economy of time and energy: “But I’m just going to be back on the couch again tomorrow, so…?” “You’re smelly,” he said, kindly. “You really are.”
One would think this would have catapulted me into action. Not so much. Though I did promise to consider it for tomorrow’s task.
Self portrait in the mirror, due in 1 week! – Courtesy Elisa Donovan
Then there are the hormones. The hormones that rage through your system like fiends. Be afraid, be very afraid. And they switch without warning. One day Charlie and I were packing to go away to a friend’s wedding in Santa Barbara. I went down to the car to hang up my garment bag with my dress in it.
I opened the back door to find that he had put the seat down to accommodate his surfboard, so when I tried to hang the bag in the door it brushed against the edge of his dirty board. (Yes, the bag brushed against the board. Not even the dress, but the bag it was ensconced in.)
I went bananas. Fuming, I bolted back upstairs and really let him have it — “THERE IS NO SPACE TO HANG MY DRESS IN THE CAR!!! WHY DO I HAVE NICE THINGS IF THEY’RE GOING TO GET THROWN AROUND LIKE GARBAGE??”
I know. Charlie’s response was not unlike what I imagine yours might be as you’re reading this. You’re a batsh*# crazy lady. WTF does not even begin to describe it. Yes, I took it to the level of asking, “Why do I even have nice things???” But in the moment I was totally incapable of stopping the words from leaving my lips.
Conversely, another day we were walking along the marina in our neighborhood in San Francisco. Just taking a little stroll together, holding hands. Charlie looked over at me to see tears streaming down my face.
“Ohmygod what’s wrong?! Are you okay?” he asked, very concerned. “It’s just … we’re on a nice walk, Charlie,” I said, weeping. “It’s just such a nice walk…” The poor guy really didn’t know who he was going to meet each day he woke up.
Then there were the moments when I would be so overcome with joy that I’d be laughing just walking down the street. By myself. So the few times that I didn’t feel crazy, I just looked crazy to everyone else.
Have I scared you away from getting pregnant yet? Don’t worry, it all gets better. The second trimester is awesome … or at least you won’t feel so utterly wretched every waking moment, so comparatively I guess it is pretty rad.
When I was about 11 weeks pregnant, I asked my mom how and why anyone would ever choose to do this twice. Who in their right mind would ever say, “Yes, sign me up for this trip AGAIN!” I couldn’t fathom it from my perch on the couch, my greasy head leaving a dirty indentation on the cushions.
My mom’s response was simple and immediate: “Because you forget. You forget all the bad stuff. Because the result is so amazing, you just forget.” And as I sit here typing this with my baby girl lying next to me, kicking my thigh with her little tiny leggies and drooling all over her bunny rabbit t-shirt I must say — it really wasn’t that bad.
— Elisa Donovan
P.S. It’s Friday, and I have just read everyone’s comments on my first blog … and I had to write to say THANK YOU!! I’m so thrilled to know that I may have brought a giggle, or 100, to many of you. I’m honored and inspired that so many of you identify and concur.
I’m such a believer in the healing and opening power of humor, and I had so hoped that writing this would touch people in a real way. Seeing the absurd humor in what I was going through really helped me enjoy the more challenging parts. Because yes, it is the most amazing thing ever. But it is also bizarre and really hard sometimes! It is the full spectrum of experience, and that is one of the reasons why it is so magical.
I wish you all a wonderful day. I’m excited to continue with future entries, so stay tuned… Til next time! xoxo