Courtesy Holly Marie Combs
Actress Holly Marie Combs is one of our favorite famous moms here at CBB, and when she called us recently to share stories about her sons, her new Lifetime-TV pilot and the possibility of a Charmed reunion, we couldn’t have been more excited! Read below for more on Holly’s life as a mom to Riley Edward, 23 months, and Finley Arthur, 4 — and her terrifying battle with postpartum thyroiditis.
Click below to continue reading our interview with Holly!
CBB: Hi Holly! What are you up to?
Holly: I’m in Vancouver shooting this pilot, Mistresses, forLifetime, and I’m without my kids for the first time! I’ve never beenaway from them for this long. I made the decision not to bring them:Riley came down with an ear infection two days before we were supposedto leave, so he couldn’t fly, and I was very upset about that. AndFinley was just in so many four-year-old activities, like summer schooland karate, that we couldn’t take him out.
I was forced to come up herewithout either one of them, and it’s so weird to me! My husband [DavidDonoho] sends me pictures of them on the playground, and they lookyears older to me even though I’ve only been gone a matter of days!
How do you balance your career with motherhood?
You never feel like you’re 100 percent at either one. I don’t everfeel like I’m the best actress I can be or the best mother I can be. Myhusband is very supportive — he wants me to work, but understands Ialso want to be with the kids. I would consider leaving acting formotherhood, I mean, we all want to be financially secure and want ourchildren to be secure forever. But life passes you by, and it’s reallyhard, at ages 1 and 4, to pick them up and bring them on location withme.
Would you support your sons if they wanted to go into acting?
I would steer them away from that career path. Personally, I have nothing to fall back on, and that creates a weird ambition that you have to be good at acting because you can’t be good at anything else. I wish I had gone for my degree — that acting wasn’t this be-all-and-end-all. If they were interested in acting, I’d be sure they’d wait until they were 18, then learn something else, as well.
So how are your sons?
They’re great! Finley is so dramatic. I think it’s somewhere genetically in our blood! My grandmother said I used to throw temper tantrums when I was little, too. When I delivered Finley, he was instantly complaining. I could tell from his cry — he was thinking "It’s too cold!" or "It’s too bright!" — I was immediately comforting him.
When Riley came out, he opened his eyes and smiled at me, and I went, "Oh, where did you come from?" He’s the angel-sweet baby, whereas Finley woke up all the time when he was little. Riley sleeps through the night, luckily. My doctor said, "If all babies were like Riley, people would be having them every day."
Where did their names — Finley and Riley — come from?
My husband and I are both Irish, and so are the boys’ names. I learned of Finley from an Internet print-out on Irish names. I thought it was too different for my husband to like, so I never really mentioned it to him. We were visiting with Alyssa Milano‘s family — they live in my neighborhood — and I decided to give David the list, hoping he would see the name, and he did! All of a sudden he suggested Finley — I kind of made it seem like it was his idea all along, haha!
Riley was a name I always wanted, but David wasn’t as into it, although he did end up letting me choose the name anyway.
How do the boys interact?
Finley, as a baby, was so excited to have a new baby. But once Riley turned 1, Finley was like, "Wait a minute, this kid is taking my toys! I’m sharing things I don’t want to share with him!" Now, though, he’s past that point, and has brotherly love. He’s figuring out that he has a role to play in this little one’s life, which is touching. He tries to pick Riley up, though, and I discourage that!
They’re boys, so they need to get outside at least once or twice a day. We have horses, so they turn them out before they ride them…and sometimes, I feel like I have to turn my children out before we play! There’s lots of ball-playing and soccer in this household.
Do you plan to have more kids?
I go back and forth every day. One day, I think it would be great, the next day, I’m like, "Am I kidding? I’m so tired! These boys kick my butt!" But I do want a big family — I was an only child, which inspired me to have a family in the first place. When you go through life moments — marriage, parental illness — it’s probably nice to have someone there who’s known you your whole life, so you can go through those transitions with someone who understands you. Life as an only child can be a bit lonely, and when I had Finley, I decided that if I could give him a big family, I wanted to as much as possible.
Courtesy Holly Marie Combs
Are there any products you and your sons especially love?
Riley LOVES Elmo! In Vancouver the other day, Elmo came on TV and I got so excited, even though I was alone. I’ll turn on the TV sometimes when the boys are gone, and without even realizing it I’ll have a kids’ show on the screen.
I use Weleda lotions with Riley too — they’re all-natural and you can get them at Whole Foods. They smell really good. We also use special diapers with him, but it’s almost time for him to start potty training.
Ooh! Any tips on that?
For boys, it’s almost easier because you have "gizmos" that you can use, like targets in the toilet. That makes it more like a game. Finley was good about it, and I was always just conscientious of leaving the situation up to him. I’d check with him before we left the house, and after he ate, so we didn’t have a lot of accidents that would give him a complex about the whole thing. I tried to make it as easy as possible for him. Boys like to be like their dads, so the dads absolutely have to be involved in the process because they have the same parts!
You’ve had some health issues surrounding your pregnancies — are you willing to talk about them?
When I was 24 I had a fibroid the size of a baseball. It was during the first season of Charmed, and I had no idea if it was a cancerous tumor or what. I had surgery to remove it; luckily it wasn’t cancer, or else they would’ve had to remove everything — organs included. I hadn’t really thought about having kids at the time, but once the choice was almost taken away from me, it was heavy.
I met my husband a year later, and we were together for four years before we felt ready to try for kids. I figured from my surgery and scar tissues, I might have a rough time getting pregnant. But we were really lucky, and it happened more quickly than we thought. Because of that, though, doctors have warned me about having a third child — I’ve had two C-sections already, and with all the scar tissue, it’s a lot.
You also battled a condition postpartum, right?
After my second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis. It’s where your immune system basically attacks you. When you’re pregnant, your immune system naturally slows down a bit so you can carry the baby, then it amps back up after pregnancy. Mine amped a little too much, and attacked my thyroid.
People thought I had postpartum depression. I was really tired and run down, so I thought maybe it had to do with having little kids and a job. But I was also suffering from hair loss, dry skin and other symptoms. I knew something was going on, but didn’t know what it was. It actually made me really sad — I thought I wasn’t keeping up well with motherhood.
I finally had some blood tests, and doctors realized what was really going on. I was put on medication, and it took a year to get the balance of medications jut right. It was tough. I’d get muscle fatigue and cramps, so I wouldn’t want to be active, b
ut the more you sleep, the worse the condition gets. It’s uncommon, but goes undiagnosed quite often — I know some women who have gone 12 years undiagnosed, and would put on weight and suffer these symptoms, thinking it was just their fault. I think every gynecologist should warn women that this can happen, and test for the condition at postpartum check-ups.
Thyroid disease runs in my family, so I had my levels checked vigilantly during my pregnancy, but never after, until I had the symptoms. Luckily, most women recover in a year; unfortunately, I did not, and will be on medication for the rest of my life. It’s funny, because I hadn’t even taken an aspirin throughout my pregnancy, so getting used to these medications was tough.
Tell us about your current project for Lifetime, Mistresses.
It’s based on the BBC show, and the pilot will air next summer. It’ll become a series if it gets picked up, as a companion piece to the show Army Wives. I play the mom of two young boys, and it’s funny because they’re not MY boys — it’s weird to play someone else’s mom! We have a really good group of girls up here; they’re all dedicated and all sweet. I’m working with Brooke Burns, who used to be married to Julian McMahon, who worked on Charmed. Last time I saw Brooke, her daughter was a baby, and now she’s about 8 years old. There’s nothing like children to let you know the past has jumped time! We swap mothering tips constantly — we hang out because all the other girls are single and engaged, young and happening. We’re the two moms on-set.
Speaking of Charmed, is there a reunion in the works?
If the script was right, and all the girls were available, we’d absolutely do one.
So you all still talk?
Yes! Rose [McGowan] and I went to lunch after I had Riley, and she asked if I was still working out regularly. I said, "Are you kidding me?!" So Rose sent me her trainer! Only a really good girlfriend would do that. She pointed out my wrinkles, too; as you can see, she’s almost like a sister! Alyssa [Milano] lives in the neighborhood, so I see her out a lot. Shannen [Doherty] I speak to every two or three months; we call to check up on each other. It’s nice — we all spent a very large chunk of our 20s together, and we basically grew up together. We did have a good time on the show, despite all the rumors.