In an exclusive interview with Motherly, the former Olympian opened up about parenting during the pandemic and preparing for baby number two.
Shawn Johnson East and her husband Andrew East are getting ready to welcome baby number two. The athletes are already parents to one-year-old daughter Drew Hazel and Shawn is in her last trimester with their baby boy.
As the former Olympic gymnast waits for her son to make his big debut, she's reflecting on all she's learned about parenting since welcoming Drew in 2019.
"Every single parent in the world parents differently, as they should," she told Motherly in an exclusive interview.
"I feel like I had so many opinions thrown at me when I was pregnant with my daughter. 'You can't do this' or 'you have to do that.' For everything, literally everything. And it's so intimidating. It makes you feel like as a parent, you're failing if you can't give that to your child. I feel like, truly, if your intention is to love your child as best as you can, you can't go wrong."
Johnson East is dedicated to supporting other parents and families. She's partnering with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals on a new campaign, "Raising the 'Bar' to Help Kids." Now through August 13, Ferrero's Crunch, Butterfinger, and Baby Ruth will feature limited-edition wrappers with artwork drawn by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals' child ambassadors and sales will benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
"I'm a mama," she said. "And I can't even fathom being in that position or having one your babies at the hospital and not being able to get whatever you might need for your baby."
Johnson East has been working with Children Network Miracle Hospitals since she was a teenager, but says the partnership makes even more sense now that she's a parent. Even little Drew is taking part.
"She's seen the candy bars! I try to not let her eat the candy bars too much," Johnson East said with a laugh. "Having a toddler running around on chocolate is terrifying. But yes, she's put together some of her own little doodles and been a part of it. I love that."
Read on to learn more about how Shawn handled parenting during a pandemic, what she's nervous about when it comes to baby number two, and what she hopes people take away from her social media posts.
Motherly: How are you feeling?
Johnson East: I'm feeling good! I am ready to have this baby.
How are you preparing for him? It is a boy, correct?
Johnson East: It is a boy and honestly, just trying to keep myself distracted. Really not much preparation. I should probably start preparing.
Can you tell me what it's been like being pregnant during the pandemic, parenting a toddler during the pandemic?
Johnson East: Just absolute chaos. I think for any mom going through a year of the pandemic was hard, rightfully so, but it's uncharted territory. Nobody's ever really been through that or done that so it was a learning process for everybody. Trying to work from home, trying to be a mom at the same time, trying to raise a toddler, trying to socialize her in a very safe way—all these different things and then getting pregnant, it adds a lot of fear. It's just one of those things where you just have to take it one day at a time and try to educate yourself as much as possible. Just hope for the best.
How did Drew do this year?
Johnson East: She killed it. She had an awesome year. She's the greatest little baby ever. I'm obviously biased but she's so fun and she's so outgoing. I think we're definitely ready to live a little bit more normal of a toddler life, hang out with friends more, see more kids. She did awesome.
Is she excited for her baby brother?
Johnson East: I think so. I also think she has no idea what's happening.
We love your TikTok videos with your husband, especially where he finds out what it's like to be pregnant.
Johnson East: That is all my husband. He is the nerd/creative/genius of the house. He always comes to me like, 'Babe, I have an idea!' I'm like, 'oh, okay…'. I've always been the serious one in the relationship, and I love his goofiness and I love his creativity. He makes life so fun.
The response to them has really resonated with mothers and people on TikTok. People really love seeing his honest reactions.
Johnson East: He's been such a go-with-the-flow husband and dad and I think he and I love being able to show people that it's okay to struggle your way through it and to make terrible mistakes and just fall flat on your face. He loves to learn, he loves to celebrate family and dadhood and momhood. He's a lot of fun.
Is that what you hope people take away from your social media?
Johnson East: Yes, that life is not perfect nor should it ever be. My husband is so tired of following social media and seeing these perfect people when that does not exist, especially as a parent. It's just messy. You have no idea what you're doing. And you're so terrified. I think for us, it's refreshing for us to be able to show the messy side of it because it just makes it feel like we're human. To see people respond and be like, 'oh, thank you, Jesus. Because I was going through the same thing but I thought I was the only one.' It just makes you feel normal.
You're preparing for your second child! Do you feel ready to bring home another baby? Or do you not know what to expect with baby number two?
Johnson East: Both. I definitely don't feel as terrified as I did with Drew because honestly my husband and I had never even changed a diaper before my daughter. Like ever. I had never really ever babysat, like nothing. It was very new to both of us. I think this time around, we feel more confident in the baby side of things. But I'm definitely terrified of... I was thinking of the process of, how do I put my daughter to bed and my baby at the same time? That stuff freaks me out.
Do you want to tell me about your partnership with Children Network Miracle Hospitals? Why is that so important to you?
Johnson East: Sure! Because I'm a mama. And I can't even fathom being in that position or having one your babies at the hospital and not being able to get whatever you might need for your baby. I've been working with Children Network Miracle Hospitals in as many ways as possible honestly since I was 16. Right after the Olympics, I went on a tour where we performed in all these different cities, and I got to visit Children's hospitals all across the country and meet all these incredible kids and families. I continued to do that since then and then my husband and I have done that. So whenever an opportunity arises to support Children's Miracle Network and the hospitals, we jump on it. Plus, this campaign is so fun! Being able to have the kids be involved with iconic candy bars and put their drawings on them and raise money on the same time? I think it's a genius way to truly raise the awareness that kids and families need.
You've been involved with them since you were a child, now you're raising your own children. Does Drew know about the partnership? Has she seen the candy bars?
Johnson East: She's seen the candy bars! I try to not let her eat the candy bars too much. Having a toddler running around on chocolate is terrifying. But yes, she's put together some of her own little doodles and been a part of it. I love that.
What's your best parenting advice? Or what's the advice you wish you had when you were pregnant with Drew?
Johnson East: That every single parent in the world parents differently, as they should. I feel like I had so many opinions thrown at me when I was pregnant with my daughter. 'You can't do this' or 'you have to do that.' For everything, literally everything. And it's so intimidating. It makes you feel like as a parent you're failing if you can't give that to your child. I feel like, truly if your intention is to love your child as best as you can, you can't go wrong. You're going to do the best you can in your way, and that's how it works for you.
What do you want people to know about you as a mom, athlete, parent, person?
Johnson East: That I'm learning every single day, just like everyone else is. I think it's really easy to put people on a pedestal. And to look at a social media platform and to interpret it as 'oh, they've really got it together' or 'they're that rock star mom.' And I'm not referring to myself, I'm referring to people that I see. And it's so easy to feel isolated and like you're not doing the best job. But I'm a hot mess who just had a meltdown when my baby doesn't eat the dinner that I fixed. I'm just like every other mom out there, just trying to learn and figure it out as I go.
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