For Parents' May issue, Gabrielle Union opens up about motherhood and describes how L.A.'s Finest costar Jessica Alba "outfitted my trailer like a nursery"


While Gabrielle Union has honed her skills over the years as a stepmom to husband Dwyane Wade‘s sons, the newborn life was uncharted territory before November. But she’s getting the hang of it.

“I suck at swaddling,” she admits in the May issue of Parents, where she and 4-month-old daughter Kaavia James (in Maisonette’s Doodle Collection onesie!) pose for the cover and accompanying editorial. “I don’t know whether to use plastic or glass bottles.”

“I never knew there were so many types of nipples. And installing a car seat is like taking the SATs!” jokes the actress. “I don’t have all the answers, which feels terrifying.”

Union might not have become a mom for the first time until age 46, but she says there’s an “upside” to that in the sense that “I give myself permission to be human,” she tells Parents.

“When I need a minute to return emails or cry or mindlessly scroll through social media, I’ll take it,” Union explains. “I’m not trying to be a perfect parent. … I’m okay with life not being balanced. I’m not hitting it out of the park in every area. There are times I should be studying lines, but I’m playing with my baby and I’m enjoying it.”

Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Parents newsletter.

Credit: Thomas Whiteside
Gabrielle Union
| Credit: Thomas Whiteside
Gabrielle Union and daughter Kaavia

Her latest role — as Sydney Burnett in Spectrum’s upcoming Bad Boys spin-off series, L.A.’s Finestis a gig that allows the hands-on mom to bring her baby girl to set, which she’s thankful for.

And costar Jessica Alba has already made their shared workplace feel like home. As Union explains to Parents, “Jessica outfitted my trailer like a nursery.”

“Together, we’ve re-imagined what Hollywood can be for working moms,” she says. (Alba, 37, has three children: daughters Haven Garner, 7½, and Honor Marie, 10, as well as son Hayes Alba, 14 months.)

Gabrielle Union

RELATED VIDEO: Gabrielle Union Tells Oprah She’s “Blessed” to Be a Mom After Suffering Multiple Miscarriages

The Bring It On and Being Mary Jane actress has learned the art of juggling multiple everyday tasks since she and husband Wade, 37, welcomed their baby girl via surrogate in November, but it wasn’t easy at first.

“Kaavia went through a phase of not napping. I was like, ‘When do I shower or pee or live?’ ” Union says. “So I had to get a little comfortable with her crying, which I had not been. And then I took the quickest shower of all time!”

NBA star Wade took two weeks of paternity leave from the Miami Heat after the birth of their daughter, and now is “like a stage mom,” his wife jokes.

“He’s very hands-on,” Union praises. “When he’s in Miami and we’re in Los Angeles, he wants to know everything, from her poops to what outfit she’s wearing.”

Gabrielle Union and daughter Kaavia cover Parents‘ May issue

Union experienced the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages and failed in vitro fertilization treatments — something that she admits made her feel “like a complete loser and failure” initially — but now, as she parents Kaavia, she sees a little girl who “represents that maybe there is a light at the end” of a difficult journey to motherhood.

“Kaavia really is the personification of hope for a lot of people like us, who maybe didn’t have a lot to be hopeful about,” she shares. “When you take people on the low points of your journey, it’s cool to let them be part of the joy.”

“Plus, she’s really cute,” quips proud mom Union of her infant daughter. “And has an uncanny ability for making steely eye contact!”

L.A.’s Finest is set to premiere May 13 on Spectrum.