Growing A Family: Emily Henderson

February 24, 2014

By Gabrielle. Photos the day before Charlie was born by LK Griffin Photography.

You might know Emily Henderson as the winner of HGTV’s Design Star, or maybe you’re a fan of her hit show, Secrets From A Stylist. Perhaps you were super inspired by the rooms she designed for Joy Cho. (That brilliant and so adorable toe kick makes me happy every time I see it!) I happen to know her as a friend, so it thrills me to share a little Q and A about her most stylish project to date: her son, Charlie. From his baby shower to his stunning nursery wallpaper to Emily’s brilliant advice about new dads, this one is all about the happy. And I just love those kinds of stories, don’t you? Friends, please welcome Emily (and Brian and Charlie!)

Q: Describe the moment you learned you were pregnant. 

A: It’s crazy how even when you’ve been trying for a year, finding out you are pregnant is still somehow so shocking. I had been traveling that month and thought for sure that i had missed my days (which, by the way, was the problem and why it took so long to get pregnant: I’m a late ovulator.) so I didn’t think it was possible. I told Brian immediately in a pretty non-dramatic way and we kinda celebrated, but after having a nine week miscarriage earlier in the year we were super cautious and curbed our excitement.

This time I learned not to tell family because managing their pain can be difficult when you are trying to heal yourself. I actually felt guilty that they were so upset. So we told close friends in LA that I see all the time and couldn’t keep it a secret from, but waited to tell the rest of our family and friends until after we saw heartbeat for two ultrasounds in a row. It wasn’t until 12 weeks that it felt even kinda real, though, and I was super cautious about getting too excited for what felt like months. Part of me thinks that once you’ve had a miscarriage, you never really celebrate until that baby is in your arms. And then, my gosh, I celebrated.

Q: What were your favorite (and not so fave!) moments during pregnancy? 

A: I was pregnant for what felt like three years. It felt sooooooooo long which is such a stupid thing to say and feel because everybody deals with it and I was so lucky to be pregnant but it was just so boring. I didn’t like being pregnant until 24 weeks. I didn’t even really get sick so it wasn’t about that. I just felt boring, tired, and not myself. It was too conceptual.

When I started really feeling him move and when I really popped at six months is when I officially started liking it. I felt like I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. So ladies, if you aren’t into your pregnancy wait until 24 weeks. People told me 16 or 20, but it really wasn’t until I hit 24 that I was like, ‘OK, I think I might be enjoying it.’ The perks are that everyone is so nice to you, you never need to suck in, your partner will do anything for you, you have the best excuse to get out of anything you don’t want to go to, and your skin generally looks really good. Revel in those perks. I sure did.

I will say that I think your first pregnancy can be the least fun in a way because you don’t really know how amazing the reward is about to be. I really wanted a family and of course I knew that the pregnancy would lead to that, but it’s just so conceptual, so abstract before it actually happens. But for my second child I think I’m going to like being pregnant more because I hold the result of my first pregnancy in my arms every day, and I know now what I can look forward to at the end of those long nine months. You really don’t know the joy of being pregnant unless you can imagine the happiness of the result. And I guess that I wasn’t that good at imagining little Charlie.

Q: Were you sick or energetic? How did you react when strangers wanted to touch your belly?

A: I threw myself into work during the whole pregnancy. I pretty much worked nine months straight and kinda loved that part of it. I had a lot of mental and physical energy and figured that I may as well work as hard as possible and make as much money as possible in that year because I had no idea how much I would want to work after Charlie was born.

Of course the first three months I was totally narcoleptic, and generally I felt off my social game, but energy-wise I wasn’t so bad. And no, I have no physical (or verbal, really) boundaries and a very open sense of privacy so I didn’t care at all when people touched my belly. Go for it. Touch away.

Q: You worked right up to delivery! Now that Charlie’s here, what are your thoughts on balance?

A: I am EXTREMELY lucky that I work for myself from home. I’m trying to think of something new to say here because it’s the usual: YES, i feel guilty when i’m not around him, and YES, when I’m in the studio working and I hear him crying with the babysitter I’m DYING to tell her how exactly she should have swaddled him.

Q: Talk about the awesomeness of your husband!

A: Everything that I want to say about Brian being a dad will come out as pure bragging, because he is amazing, so instead I’ll just share my secret: I didn’t really try to learn anything unless we could learn it together.

I think that when moms know so much more about child rearing than dads, that they get intimidated and kinda give you the power, which causes lots of problems. Try everything you can to empower your partner as a father, to make him feel like he is good at it as you are, as often as possible. While you may know more about how to care for your child, pull it back and try to figure things out together, with a lot of ‘what do you think we should do about…?’, instead of you telling him what you guys should do as parents. I’m not saying to play dumb, but there are times when I think I know the answer to the question but I let us figure it out together so he doesn’t feel like a sub-parent by not knowing so many answers. ‘Where should we keep the bottles? How often do you think we should bathe him? How long should we let him nap?’

I think when women come up with child care systems and then just tell their partners about them, it can lead to them feeling like it’s just not their thing and then of course you bear the burden of more child care. That’s why I think it’s crazy there aren’t more co-parenting classes (at least in LA). Why would I just go and then report back to him about how we are parenting? Even if you think you know, try to learn it again with him so he doesn’t feel stupid and scared and then you are annoyed and feel like you can’t leave the house or he isn’t going to be able to feed or bathe your baby. It’s a cyclical process: Brian is a good dad because he feels like he’s a good dad. He feels confidant and that he knows what he’s doing and therefore wants to do it even more. Most people don’t like to do what they aren’t good at, so help him be good at being a dad without making him feel stupid and he will want to do it more.

Q: Charlie came fast! Were you frightened of the process before delivery? 

A: My mom had six kids, my sister has five, and all my friends have kids – I knew that I would live, so I wasn’t really scared, I was just so excited for the day to finally come. I knew the pain was going to be unimaginable so I didn’t even let myself think about it.  And then, yeah, I was crazy lucky and he came really fast.

But ladies, don’t put any expectations on yourself for that day. I knew my only job was to come out of there with a healthy baby so ANY WAY that I did that would make the day successful. If I needed an epidural, I would have gotten one (I was begging for one but he came too fast). If I needed a C-Section, I would have gotten one. Here in LA there is a lot of social pressure for a natural birth, and I just think that is crazy. No matter how you have your baby, you should be unbelievably proud of yourself. Don’t try to control how you have your baby or you may be disappointed. Your only job is to have it.

Q: Please finish the sentence: To me, being a mom means…

A: To me, being a mom means letting the capacity of my heart grow bigger and bigger every day. It’s like Charlie came in with a taffy stretching machine, and every day is stretching my heart and my ability to love, more and more. Parameters of love no longer exist. No boundaries can stop this stuff.


Oh, Emily. Thank you. Your words about sharing the responsibility of Charlie with your husband are wonderful. You’re so right: “Most people don’t like to do what they aren’t good at, so help him be good at being a dad without making him feel stupid and he will want to do it more.” Brilliant.

Friends, are you more of a control freak when it comes to your babies, or have you really approached it as a partnership? Is it more difficult to draw those lines if you’re the main caregiver during the day? Tell us how you’re making it work!

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rachael February 24, 2014 at 9:34 am

I love Emily Henderson and have been following her blog for a while so i have already read her birth story, etc. She’s so funny!
I don’t think I am a control freak with my kids with my husband, but with in-laws I think I am. Less so with my second but when my first was a baby I was a total list-maker, clock watcher, anal hawk-eyed mother. I didn’t care how my husband did things. I know alot of moms can’t stand how their husbands change diapers or bath them, or cut their food but I really don’t care. But when my in-laws would watch her when she was a baby I left like 2 page notes. Lame, I know. Now that I have two I barely remember to bring diapers with me anywhere I go.


2 Summer February 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

Aw, I’ve been an Emily fan since that season of Design Star. Such a nice story, and she seems so down to earth!


3 Bethany February 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

I love the way Emily writes! This post- as well as her posts on motherhood on her own blog- are insightful and original and true. Thanks for sharing, Emily and Gabrielle!


4 Shannon February 24, 2014 at 11:43 am

This was really fun to read and took me back (way back!) to memories of our first baby. I love Emily’s attitude about figuring things out together as you go–it made me think of Andrew’s first bath at home: I was too scared to do it, so I let my husband do the honors while I took the video. :)


5 Kate February 24, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Thank you. Emily articulated what I have had a hard time making sense of – how challenging it is to fully embrace being pregnant after a loss, how it’s so abstract until the baby is THERE in your arms. And how important it is to parent WITH your partner! I’m guilty of doing too much reading and thinking that makes me a more powerful parent.
I loved reading this.


6 Emily A February 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I absolutely agree with Emily’s advice on co parenting. Letting my husband take some of my load was the best thing I ever ever did as a Mom.

What I really love about this post is Emily’s comments on delivery. Your job is having a healthy baby, regardless of how that happens. Amen, sister! (Oh, and be warned, it’s going to happen differently every time…)


7 Brimful February 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm

One of the reasons I feel in deep like with Emily’s IG feed is her incredible enthusiasm for motherhood. After having three of my own, I kind of forgot what it’s like to be a mother the first time around. Emily reminds me of that magic :).


8 Sarah W February 24, 2014 at 10:04 pm

I love Emily! And I love you! So having these two blogs intersect is kind of blowing my mind right now in the best way! You are right about the advice about dads being the best advice ever. I just read this to my husband and we both agreed that we fell into the trap of me doing everything and him feeling like he didn’t even know what was going on. I’m going to share this advice with any soon-to-be-parents I know because it is key! Like others, I also love how enthusiastic about motherhood Emily is. It’s nice to see.


9 Azra February 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

I am a fan of Emily Henderson. It is nice to see that she is enjoying motherhood.
Great advice on co-parenting. I wish that I was a bit more flexible in that department… but no use to dwell on it now. I blame it on hormones!


10 Sarah February 25, 2014 at 8:57 am

I have such a girl crush on Emily! Love this, especially the advice on dads.


11 Christy@SweetandSavoring February 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I am so in love with this series. Thank you, Emily, for sharing your story, and those pregnant photos are beautiful :)


12 Emily February 26, 2014 at 7:40 am

I already loved Emily’s blog but ever since Charlie was born I’ve been literally estatic when she has a new post up!

I’m not a mom or a wife yet, but I am a full time nanny and sometimes I worry that I’ll be too overbearing/bossy with my future husband when it comes to parenting our children, simply because I’ve spent so much time around kids myself. This advice was so spot on, thanks for sharing!


13 Melissa Camara Wilkins February 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Love this! The Henderson fam is the cutest.


14 Linsey Laidlaw February 26, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Beautiful, thank you for sharing. I love those words of advice for Dads—applicable for older siblings too I think!


15 Lyn March 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I love this post so much! I have been following along with Emily’s pregnancy and with Baby Charlie every step of the way. To the point that my husband thinks I’m a total weirdo when I’m showing him photos on instagram every day of the latest cool think Emily or Charlie is doing! I too had a nine week pregnancy loss earlier this year, but am pregnant again and 26 weeks along. It is so nice to hear from someone so open about this and about the challenge and fear of trying again, as well as having to keep it such a secret. I love her advice about parenting with your husband! It is spot on and something I need to put into practice more as we’re both learning about what to expect with our baby boy arrives. Thanks Emily!


16 Mina @ Mini Piccolini March 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

I love Emily’s thoughts on co-parenting. I had the same strategy when we had our first child. We even had more than 3 weeks on our own with our baby before our families came to stay, just so that we could find our parenting groove together before our moms came in with their advice etc. I gave my husband so many props for being a great dad! Now we have two boys (and a little girl on the way) and my husband is every bit as much a parent as I am, if not more, and our boys are very much Daddy’s boys, which is sometimes hard for me to take – but I’m so glad to have a real partner in parenting!


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