Sarah Drew: Why I Struggled to Embrace My First Pregnancy

09/24/2014 at 11:00 AM ET

After starting off her second pregnancy with severe morning sickness, Sarah Drew is now taking frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the night, has a strict feeding schedule and is constantly fighting a craving for sweets.

But looks can be deceiving. Despite the rough ride, the actress admits she’s enjoying the experience in a way that she was unable to when pregnant with her now 2½-year-old son Micah Emmanuel.

“The first time it wasn’t just the physicality, it was the emotional weight, too,” the Grey’s Anatomy star tells Fit Pregnancy‘s October/November issue.

“I was mourning the end of a massive chapter in my life … I knew I’d have to sacrifice a lot more than I was used to sacrificing, but I didn’t know how it was going to look and I didn’t know if I was going to be a good mom.”

Sarah Drew Fit Pregnancy Cover
Courtesy Fit Pregnancy

And no baby book or parenting class helped the mom-to-be move past her fears. According to Drew, it took seeing her first baby grow into a happy toddler for her to realize the joys of motherhood.

This time around, it’s been really delightful because I have the example in front of me of what happens when the child comes out,” she explains. “And yeah, it’s changed my life, but I’m really happy with the way things have changed. Your desires and the things that you love shift.”

Drew, 32, adds, “The emergence of a child opens up this well of love that you just never knew you were able to have. And it’s empowering.”

The couple have chosen to once again wait until the delivery to find out the sex of their baby on the way. And although Drew secretly hoped for a daughter during her first pregnancy, she would be just as ecstatic with a second son.

“For me, I thought I wanted a girl and if I had found out that it was a boy before I’d met him — while he was still theoretical and inside of me — I could’ve been disappointed,” she says.

“But that’s just impossible when he’s placed on your belly. It doesn’t matter what the sex is! You’re just in love and that’s how it is.”

Despite there being no word on whether Micah will be getting a baby brother or sister, the toddler already has his bets on a girl — and has even picked out her name. “He has named her Moses,” Drew shares. “We’re not naming a girl Moses. It’s not happening.”

But that’s not the only thing Drew isn’t doing differently. After seeing how well her “very loose labor plan” worked during Micah’s delivery, the expectant star — who has seen many of her friends “devastated” after their birth plans went awry — is grateful for her ability to go with the flow.

“I wanted to try a natural birth, but I ended up having pregnancy toxemia. I was in horrific upper abdominal pain the whole night before he was born, and when I went to the hospital, they said, ‘We need to induce, ” she recalls.

“I cried about it. And then, dude, if I could get induced and get drugs and have every baby that way … it was amazing! I got the epidural and, within an hour, they gave me the Pitocin. He was out in six hours.”

Sarah Drew Fit Pregnancy Cover
Courtesy Fit Pregnancy

However, the last-minute change during her labor was only the beginning of Drew’s adjustment in her parenting plan.

“I had the worst time trying to breastfeed and it took me a really long time to bond with my son because of it,” she shares. “I have these memories of bouncing on a ball and him screaming at me and me sobbing hysterically trying to get him to latch.”

After 10 weeks of trying and visits with a lactation consultant, Drew’s prayers for peace were finally answered one day after church. “It was in a community of a bunch of different kinds of moms — some attachment parents and some who were formula feeding — all of them said, ‘Sarah, why would you torture each other? It’s not worth it. You’re not a failure.’ ”

She adds, “That day, I felt like a sisterhood had swooped in and told me it was okay. So, for a year, I pumped and Micah had breast milk from a bottle.”

Drew — who says raising children is “the hardest job on the planet” — admits she wishes more mothers would step up and support each other, instead of the judgmental attitudes she often sees.

“There’s no measure of success. There are no annual promotions,” she says. “So your accolade becomes: I breastfed for a year and a half, or I gave birth naturally and had no pain medication, or my kid goes to bed at 7:30 p.m. on the dot every single night. Who cares? How does your child’s sleep schedule affect my life?”

And, with that in mind, the actress is ready to sit back, relax and embrace the incredible experience.

“I honestly think the biggest trials end up teaching you how to let go,” Drew admits. “I was a control freak about sleep for the first six months of Micah’s life and now it’s like, okay, if he has a late night, he’s actually perfectly fine. His life isn’t ruined.”

The new season of Grey’s Anatomy premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

— Anya Leon

Want more stories like this?

Sign up for our newsletter and other special offers:

sign me up

Thank you for signing up!

FILED UNDER: Maternity , News , Parenting , Sarah Drew

Share this story:

Your reaction:

Add A Comment

PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 29 comments

Shawna on

It really bothers me that the answer to breastfeeding problems is usually “Oh don’t worry about, just quit, you shouldn’t stress yourself out over it.” Breast milk is made for human babies and probably 90% of women who say they couldn’t breastfeed were just given misinformation or gave up too early because they knew formula was an option. If formula wasn’t around I guarantee you that many more women would figure out how to do it.

Corinna on

@Shawna Sometimes it’s more than just ‘figure it out’. As someone who works in the medical field and sees babies admitted for dehydration all the time because mothers are desperate to exclusively breastfeed so babies end up not getting enough if mom is unfortunately not producing enough. Formula doesn’t mean failure. And your statistic is bogus.

Judemental on

@Shawna you are EXACTLY who she is talking about in this article. Judgmental people who make comments on another mother’s decisions. You have no idea what someone is dealing with or going through medically. You do what is right for your child and don’t judge others for doing what is right for theirs. Why do you even care about what another mother is doing or not doing with THEIR child. It does not affect you at all. Your judging comments are exactly what creates these ridiculous “mommy wars” and makes people feel superior to others. Get over yourself

Andrea on

@Shawna, she says she gave up feeding him from the breast but she exclusively pumped for her son for a YEAR. As someone who has done the same as a working mother, I can attest to the level of commitment that takes. It takes so much extra time (you think feeding a newborn constantly is sleep-depriving? Try doing that AND having to pump afterward) but it is worth it and I have no regrets.

Erin on

@Shawna- is that what you got from this? You missed the part where she tried for 10 weeks and used LCs and did everything she could? Try having some empathy and respect. I never post here, but I hate that some new mom is going to read your comment and feel sad or shamed. Moms- If formula is the right choice for your family, please don’t listen to the self-righteous people like Shawna. Do your best and make the right choices for your family.

Jackie on

@Shawna that has to be the most ignorant statement. Do you know how many babies are starving because their mothers are desperate to exclusively breastfeed but aren’t able to produce enough milk? Or any milk at all, in some cases? Or what about the babies that just won’t latch? Should we just let them starve so people like you don’t insinuate they are bad mothers if they formula feed? Should the child and mother suffer because ignorant people like to pass judgment on them without having the facts? And, for your information, formula feeding a baby is not a bad thing and does not make one a bad mother. It’s a choice that we all make and as mothers, and women, we should support each other instead of tearing each other down. What an incredibly disappointing comment.

Anonymous on

How refreshing to see a celebrity mother who isn’t afraid of telling it like it is (instead of feeling like she has to sugar-coat everything)! BTW, is it normal for women being induced to get an epidural before the induction starts, as Sarah did? I’m not being snarky, I’m geninunely curious!

K on

Guess what Shawna – you have no idea how demoralizing and dehumanizing it is when you have had to struggle to BF your child (or in my case, my twins). I knew BF twins was possible, I’d known women who had done it. Yet I hemorrhaged in recovery, and the resulting anemia rendered my breastmilk supply so low that I could barely keep up with one, much less two. I spent 5 months doing everything I could – herbs, feeding then pumping immediately after, you name it, I tried it. Nothing. I would pump for a half an hour and get half an ounce. When I gave up and called Uncle is when I finally relaxed. Guess what, my almost 9 year old twins are happy and healthy and smart and athletic and compassionate and nobody gives a rip about whether or not they got formula. Put an end to the “I mother better than you” crap and just support women in whatever their parenting struggle is.

Bree on

Thank you, Sarah for being so candid about your struggles. Motherhood isn’t all sunshine and roses and for first time mothers, we tend to feel the societal pressure placed on us by judgmental people that feel we aren’t doing the right thing. It is not up to others to judge what is right for a family. The bullying that occurs when self-righteous people that have no clue what struggles are existing is disgusting. Shawna, you should be ashamed of yourself. My daughter would be dead if there were no formula. Until you understand medical reasons for women not being able to breastfeed (whether it is flat or inverted nipples, insufficient glandular tissue, the child has a tongue-tie, hormonal imbalances, or just a luck of the draw) you should keep your mouth shut. It is people like you that cause most of the feelings of inadequacy in mothers who are trying to do their best.

Lisa on

@Anonymous, no, it isn’t usual to receive the epidural first, then be induced. I’m guessing in her case since she had pregnancy toxemia, it was an emergency kind of deal and they did it that way. Normally if you go into the hospital for induction, they start giving you Pitocin and you don’t receive the epidural until you’re at least 4 cm dilated.

I was induced with my first pregnancy (way past due date) and I was in agony for seven hours before I finally got to 4 cm and got that blessed epidural!

Anonymous on

@anonymous – I am a labor & delivery nurse…and just to answer that question – no it’s not a normal thing to get an epidural prior to labor starting. But if she had toxemia (which I am assuming she means preeclampsia and most likely HELLP syndrome if her upper abdomen was really painful) – then medical decisions are made a little differently. I could go into greater detail about platelets, blah blah blah, but I am guessing her experience was most likely due to preeclampsia. The recommendation is to be in active labor prior to receiving an epidural.

Pam on

It is the hardest and the most rewarding job there is. Sometimes I’ll have a horrible day but then my 10 month old son says mom and I remember that it’s all worth it and that everything will be ok. Mom is my favorite word now.🙂

Kat on

Lisa, there isn’t always a dialation requirement for epidural. I was induced, and waited until the pain was too much because epidurals can slow labor down (and my little one was just not coming). But I was offered an epidural whenever I needed it.

They probably gave her an epidural first because she was already in intense pain, and probably adding the induction would have made her unable to keep still for the procedure.

K on

@shawna the article says she pumped and fed her son breast milk from a bottle… What’s wrong with that?

(PS- I agree with most other people on here about not judging other moms and I personally have no problem with moms who formula feed by necessity OR choice – Just wanted to present another reason why Shawna’s post is ridiculous)

Anna on

Good that she is so honest to talk about it on the magazine. Happy for her.

Maura on

Good on you, Sarah! Enjoy it and keep on going with the flow!

Dawn on

I had to be induced for my 2nd child and I was offered an epidural at the beginning. I wanted to have a natural birth like my 1st so I declined. Worst decision ever! Haha They broke my water and started pumping me with pitocin and for the next 10 hours I labored with very little progression. They were prepping me for a c-section and I finally said yes to the epidural. 30 minutes later I had gone from barely a 5 to my son’s head popping out when they went to cath me haha if I ever had another kid, I’d ask for the epidural after they confirmed the positive pregnancy test!

Stef on

What a refreshing, candid interview. Love this girl.

Anonymous on

Bree- Women can and do breastfeed with flat or inverted nipples (often with the aid of a special type of nipple shield). That being said, I agree completely with the rest of what you said. I just wanted to make sure than any women with flat or inverted nipples on here that are pregnant and want to BF know that it IS possible!🙂

Guest on

Nice article to learn about her, hope she is doing great.

Maggie on

This is wonderful! A celeb who says motherhood is not all rainbows but that no matter how much you plan life happens and plans change. I am exclusively pumping for my handsome 9 month old. That doesn’t mean I don’t breastfeed, it means I don’t nurse. I tried to breastfeed for 8 weeks with no luck and had a baby who screamed for hour because he was starving leaving me an emotional wreak and feeling like a failure. Those who claim nursing is a matter trying harder and those if us who have to feed their babies another way just don’t understand the emotional turmoil a woman goes thrown when she physically cannot do it. You don’t need to make her feel awful because she makes herself feel that way. Why do we has women feel the need to judge and put each other down for our choices! Why cann’t we embrace that your journey in motherhood and mine are different and there is nothing wrong with that.

Guest on

I breast fed successfully but if I had had issues there is NO WAY I’d have pumped for 18 months! Wow, that’s impressive. I liked breastfeeding because it’s easy and I’m lazy and cheap. Also the cuddles. But nothing is wrong with formula feeding – NOTHING. I also was a crazy stressed out control freak that first year terrified of doing something wrong – especially about sleep. And lo and behold I now also have a happy toddler. I wish I could’ve put a lot less pressure on myself and enjoyed it more. Maybe I’ll have a #2 someday and be more relaxed. A lot of what she says here really hits home with me.

Guest on

Oh and I also had HELLP syndrome and I agree that she likely had the same. It’s no day at the beach folks. Kudos to her to even attempting #2, I’m scared out of my wits to even try and go through that again.

Anna on

This is a great article and I wish more women would share their stories! Breastmilk in a bottle is still breastmilk. Even if you’re exclusively pumping and have to breastfeed with a bottle (because you just aren’t nursing) baby can still have everything they would have gotten at the breast. Skin to skin, cuddles, eye contact, everything! I’ve been pumping for my son for just about 2yrs now. I tried for 7mos to get him to nurse, no one can ever take that from me and tell me I didn’t try hard enough. I’m pregnant with my second baby now and I’m absolutely going to try again but I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t work. We just need to own our decisions. All that matters is that you fed and loved your baby🙂

Anonymous on

What a wonderful and refreshing article to read. Thanks for sharing this and I hope to read more from her in the future!

Anonymous on

Sarah Drew is very amazing. From her leading roles in “Front of the Class” to “Moms’ Night Out”, this lady never ceases to amaze me. Maybe in a few years she’ll move up to A-listers in Hollywood.
In life, she must have also been a good lady. Nice. low-profile…… I don’t think I’ve seen much of her on People Magazine’s radar.
All the best wishes for her. Buona fortuna.

Lyanna on

I breast fed one twin and the other was a “lazy nurser”, so he got breast milk out of the bottle. As far as I’m concerned, they were both breast fed, so whether you get it off the tap or a bottle, it’s still breastmilk.

Mandy on

She is a great actress and kinda down to earth comparing to other Hollywood actresses.

Kamil on

How refreshing to see a celebrity mother who isn’t afraid of telling it like it is (instead of feeling like she has to sugar-coat everything)! BTW, is it normal for women being induced to get an epidural before the induction starts, as Sarah did? I’m not being snarky, I’m geninunely curious!

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters