Picture perfect motherhood isn’t necessarily a lie — it just wasn’t Laura Benanti‘s truth.
The Tony-winning actress (known to many for her spot-on impression of First Lady Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) is opening up about the “imperfect aspects” of pregnancy and motherhood that “are often glossed over and minimized.”
Benanti is mother to 17-month old daughter Ella Rose, born on Valentine’s Day 2017. She is the first child for the star, 38, and her husband Patrick Brown. And though Benanti describes her little girl as “hilarious and magical,” her pregnancy was anything but.
“I did not have an Instagram-friendly pregnancy. I wasn’t blissful and expectant. I was barfing,” Benanti wrote in a first-person essay published Tuesday by Romper. “I was not dewy and radiant. I was lying naked on the cold bathroom tile begging to be released from the vomitus prison of my own making. I did not glow.”
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Like Kate Middleton and Ayesha Curry, Benanti was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum — an incurable condition characterized by intense nausea and vomiting that can often lead to dehydration and chronic pain.
“Lucky for her, she is a princess, and got to lie down. I, however, am from New Jersey… so I had to go to work,” Benanti joked. “Long story short … I worked, I barfed, I got IVs. I missed work, I barfed, I got IVs. I cried, I read countless baby books, I got IVs, I went on bed rest.”
She also gained 65 lbs. “I truly don’t know how,” she said. “Not a single person ever looked at me and said, ‘You’re so cute! It looks like you swallowed a basketball!’ Most people said nothing with their mouths, but their EYES screamed, ‘Oh my God, it looks like you swallowed three basketballs, four meatball subs, a gallon of ice cream and the Atlantic Ocean.’ “
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Benanti was in labor for three days before Ella finally arrived. While the first 10 days went well, all changed when Benanti’s breast milk started coming in. As it turns out, Ella was allergic to it. To compensate, Benanti removed gluten, eggs, beans, cruciferous vegetables and sugar from her diet — all to no avail.
“Toward the end of our breastfeeding journey, my entire diet consisted of turkey, rice, sweet potato and zucchini,” Benanti recalled. “I was pretty hangry. And tired. And feeling VERY inferior. Breastfeeding was extremely important to me and my husband, and I was failing.”
“I saw seven lactation consultants, two osteopaths and one medicine woman who covered me in eagle feathers, left the room, and came back three hours later,” she continued. “I had allergy tests, muscle tests and one test that involved me pooping into bags for three days straight. I saw doctor after doctor and nothing helped.”
Frustrated, the new mom wasn’t sleeping — nor was Ella, uncomfortable from the milk. Benanti fought with Brown, developed postpartum depression and battled with her anxiety.
“It was NOT what I had been promised by the mommy blogs and Instagrammers who made it look so blissful and effortless,” she wrote.
All these months later, much of that has changed. Ella “doesn’t have any allergies, and has been (for the most part) a very healthy baby,” Benanti wrote.
Most importantly, the Detour star is taking care of herself. “I have an INCREDIBLE therapist,” she said. “I meditate. I usually eat well, but not always. I take medication and I rely on the village that is other mothers.”
Explained Benanti, “That village has been the greatest help of all, and it’s what I hope every mom can be for every other mom. That is so much more valuable than being perfect.”