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!