March 17, 2010 03:00 PM

Courtesy SELF

After years of wielding her scalpel as Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo was ready for her life to expand beyond her career.

However, many were surprised to find the actress suited up in scrubs and back on set just four weeks after delivering daughter Stella Luna.

“A lot of people couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take my maternity leave,” the actress admits in the April issue of SELF.

“I felt like I needed to work while I had this opportunity. The writers and producers were really gracious and wrote my scenes so I could preshoot them.”

While she has successfully managed to balance motherhood and her career so far, Pompeo, 40, insists Stella will forever be first and foremost — despite her initial nerves as a new mom!

“I got pregnant and I was like, ‘Oh God, it worked! Oh, no!’ Will I know how to do everything right?” she muses. “Of course, nobody does everything right, but as long as your baby is the priority, that’s the best you can do.”

And Pompeo is doing just that, savoring each moment — and impromptu dance party! — with her sweet 6-month-old baby girl.

“I sing [Beyoncé‘s] ‘Single Ladies’ to her: ‘Put your hands up!’ Even though it’s probably an involuntary movement on her part, I think she’s really doing it.”

When they’re not rocking out to their favorite tunes, Pompeo is busy instilling a strong sense of self in her daughter. The trait, she says, is one she hopes she passes on to Stella.

“I don’t believe in putting on airs. I call it like I see it. I am who I am, a Southie,” the Boston native laughs. “I hope Stella has more self-confidence than I did as a child. Because when you believe in yourself … you don’t look for validation from others.”

As for her relationship with husband Chris Ivery, Pompeo is always making an effort to add a bit of spice to their marriage. ‘

“It’s easy to get lost in the baby. You have to make sure you give your husband attention,” she explains, adding that the same principle applies to her circle of friends.

“You learn things from your friends, and they bring you joy, and you bring back all that happiness to your baby.”

— Anya Leon

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