It’s a major shift to go from the most self-absorbed job in the world to the most selfless.
Four years ago this week, on a warm spring day in New York City, I was in the back of a taxi lurching down 7th Avenue after just landing one of the most esteemed agents in town. I remember the warmth of the sun hitting my arm through the cracked window and the ever-present smell of the city enveloping me. I was crying.
I felt like my entire life had been built up to this moment. For as long as I can remember, I have been an artist. While most people are finding themselves in their early twenties, I always knew that I wanted to be creative. I spent years studying, rehearsing, working, and “mastering my craft” (a term that actually now makes me shudder and laugh). I did every breathing and sense memory exercise, vocal and body warm up invented. I spent hours imagining and soul searching, I took myself on artist dates, read plays and studied modern playwrights. I went to London and studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy. I spent hours at the gym obsessing over my body because a casting director once told me I was fat. I was 115 pounds, by the way.
This day was special. I had been validated as an actress after years of ups and downs, cycles of hope followed by rejection that any artist knows too well. They wanted to work with me! I was on a roll — the contract was in my hand, my production company was a success, I had just finished writing and recording my album, and I was finally living the creative life I had always dreamed of in a city I was madly in love with.
My tears however were not only tears of joy; I was also petrified. The day before, I had found out I was pregnant.
The previous year of my life had been an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions; a bumpy trip down fertility road where I experienced massive grief after losing two pregnancies back-to-back. To deal with the trauma, I had immersed myself in my creative endeavors and like artists before me, never wrote, sang or acted better than when I was at my lowest point. Now I was finally experiencing the rewards of a year of spiritual, artistic growth only to find out I had conceived yet again.
I felt a flutter in my stomach and I instinctively looked down and whispered to my baby, “We did it.” I felt as though my son was with me and had been watching over me, helping me to achieve this tiny success in my career. I loved him already, and the fear of once again losing this precious gift was overwhelming.
It was an incredible feeling to love someone I hadn’t met. Especially when up until this moment, everything was about me. I worked daily on my art and myself, pondering how I was feeling and how to access those feelings. Then suddenly one day I felt it; that inexplicable deep longing for a child. It hit me fast and hard and thus began my journey to motherhood.
It was a very scary and turbulent nine months until my son was born, I had every complication imaginable. When I held him for the first time I wept, I couldn’t believe I was actually holding my baby. I looked in his beautiful soulful eyes staring back at me and realized he was, to me, more of a dream come true than anything I had dreamed of professionally. (And yes, I totally practiced my Tony acceptance speech my entire life.)
The challenges of being a Mommy are not just the physical and emotional exhaustion but also the complete loss of freedom. I went from the most self-absorbed job in the world to the most selfless job in the world overnight. Then, I had my second baby three days after my first turned two years old, and my world became even more chaotic.
My second baby was a premie, born two months early and in the NICU for 48 days. I had a toddler at home who demanded my attention, and a baby in the hospital who I prayed would make it out of there alive and healthy. It seemed laughable to even imagine a scenario where I could be creative again or indulge any of my previous passions. I accepted that life was about my children now, and the love was so deep, pure and true, that I was okay with that.
It was only when my youngest turned one that I started to find my creativity again, allowing myself time to work. As mommies, I think we all feel a tremendous pressure to get right back to our past lives, but I didn’t force myself into that life too quickly. I had two babies back to back and had been pregnant for four years. I needed time.
I’m still finding my way back to the things I once loved more than anything. I started writing again, singing again and working on a new production with my producing partner. Between the boys schedules, with one in therapy five days a week and the other in preschool, I barely feel like I have time to do anything let alone take up all the time necessary to successfully create. Thankfully I have an incredible network of artist mommies who inspire me daily. Their advice is always the same: make time for yourself. Allow yourself time to create and don’t feel guilty about taking it.
It’s a major shift to go from the most self-absorbed job in the world to the most selfless. But my life is so much more beautiful and rich. These two perfect little beings have taught me so much about courage, strength, patience, and love. I am forever changed and a better artist for it.