"Parents just want their baby to be happy and healthy, and we're giving every ounce of ourselves to do that," says Zee

By peoplestaff225
June 23, 2016 02:00 PM

Ginger Zee is not one to back down from a challenge. When she joined the team at Good Morning America, she says she instantly became their go-to adventurist.

“I started storm-chasing at a young age,” says the GMA meteorologist, 35, who is featured in the current issue of PEOPLE.

“They’d have meetings where they’d go, ‘Would anyone ever do this?’ And I was that girl,” Zee adds. ” ‘Sure, I’ll jump out of a plane.’ ‘Sure, I’ll go to Vietnam and spelunk in the biggest cave in the world.’ ”

Allison Michael Orenstein

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Zee jokes that husband Ben Aaron, a 34-year-old TV journalist whom she wed in 2014, “wasn’t thrilled” about the timing of that latter excursion.

“We couldn’t tell anyone, but I was nine weeks pregnant,” says Zee, who gave birth to son Adrian Benjamin in December.

Her husband’s protective paternal instincts were greatly appreciated when she began Dancing with the Stars rehearsals with pro dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy just two months after giving birth and less than two weeks after being cleared for physical activity following her Cesarean section.

“Ben did a lot of the heavy lifting,” Zee says of parenting duties as she juggled GMA and World News Tonight with David Muir in New York City and DWTS in Los Angeles.

Still, it wasn’t easy being away from Adrian as she competed.

“There were a couple of breakdowns,” Zee says of DWTS rehearsals. “It’s physically exhausting and kind of an emotional thing. I don’t think I understood that until I did it.”

What was perhaps more surprising was the criticism she received from some online about her parenting choices.

“It can get really negative. People wrote me e-mails saying maybe I should have kept breastfeeding. But they don’t know that [I’m not],” says Zee, who is currently managing without a nanny but is actively looking for one.

“All of us are just trying to do it right, so when someone accuses you of doing wrong, whether it has merit or not, it’s going to get to you.”

After more than 15 years on TV, Zee says she’s developed a thick skin, but she’s often found herself thrown since having a baby.

“People can say whatever they want about me. They can call me ugly. But don’t talk about my child,” says Zee, who launches her digital-first culinary science series Food Forecast on ABC.com in July and hopes to inspire young students through a children’s science show in the future.

“Parents just want their baby to be happy and healthy, and we’re giving every ounce of ourselves to do that.”

For more from Ginger Zee, including how her family helped her battle anorexia as a teen, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

— Patrick Gomez