Actor Caterina Scorsone is a familiar face to the many moms who've binge-watched Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy while feeding babies late at night.
Scorsone is not a real-life doctor, but she is a trained doula and knows a lot about what women experience as they become mothers, but when her second child was born with Down Syndrome, Scorsone's perspective on motherhood shifted massively.
On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, Scorsone tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety that when her now 2-year-old daughter Paloma was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."
With her older daughter, Eliza, Scorsone felt she had a good understanding of what her job was as a mom: She was preparing her daughter to survive in a competitive world by giving her the education and skills she would need.
But when Paloma was born, Scorsone had to reframe what it means to be a parent. Paloma's arrival taught her that parenting isn't about paving a path of success for a child, but about being a home for a child while they create their own path through life.
Like a lot of parents of children with cognitive, neurological or physical differences, Scorsone didn't come to this realization right away. At first, she admits she didn't know what to do. "I felt out of my depth," she tells Tenety. "I felt scared and ill-equipped and isolated."
So she turned off the internet and the millions of suggestions and opinions it brings, and turned instead to her village. "I think one of my first phone calls was to Amy Brenneman who was on Private Practice with me and she and her husband Brad have a beautiful daughter named Charlotte who has a chromosomal variation," she explains. "And so I called her and brought all of my scared feelings to her and wept with her and grieved with her."
When Scorsone told Brenneman that she didn't know how to parent a child with Down Syndrome, Brenneman gave her some simple advice: You do it just like you would do with any other child. You learn who they are and you learn what they need.
In the last two years, Scorsone has learned what her daughters need and what she needs, too, and she's found a "magic love army" in a community of fellow Down Syndrome mothers.
Motherhood doesn't look exactly how she thought it would—it's different and even better.
To hear more about Caterina Scorsone's experiences in motherhood and her career listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.