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No need for her to (pretty little) lie about it: Shay Mitchell simply didn't love being pregnant.
Some moms spend three trimesters marveling at their body's ability to create life, happily indulging cravings and accepting compliments about their pregnancy glow. The actress, however, was "Not a fan," as she told E! News in a recent interview.
There's a reason her six-part Almost Ready YouTube series showcased a few of her lower moments beyond missing her favorite Slurpee-and-Hennessy cocktail and worrying about just how painful labor would be. "Because for me it was extremely difficult," she admitted of carrying her now 17-month-old daughter Atlas. "Something is taking over your body. Your hormones are going up and down, you're upset I can't fit into a pair of jeans. But that's not the only reason. I was out of breath. I was tired. That's not something I was used to. So mentally it took a toll on me."
And if you've felt yourself nodding along to all that, the 33-year-old wants you to know that you're doing amazing, sweetie.
"I don't think a lot of women talk about this because you don't want to feel ungrateful that you're able to carry," she explained. "People are like, 'Wait, you're not happy you're pregnant?' 'Yes, of course I'm happy I'm pregnant, but I can't help that my mind isn't happy right now.'"
Having come out the other side, she wants other expectant moms to know it's okay to not be A-OK.
"I don't think that there's anything wrong for women to feel that way," she stressed. "There are huge changes, beautiful changes, but also huge changes, that are happening in your body and your mind and it's hard."
Yet it's rarely discussed. While prenatal depression affects an estimated 15 percent of women, it's not a topic that generally arises at any one of the approximately 8,700 maternal care appointments. After labor, Mitchell recalled filling out the form used to screen new moms for postpartum mood disorders and checking off each box to confirm that she was feeling great but thinking, "Where was this guy when I needed it? I wanted to cross off, no, I'm not feeling well. I want to talk about it. No one gave me the option."
Because simply knowing she wasn't alone would have gone a long way to assuaging those feelings. Despite doing her homework—"I was pretty up-to-date with all the different changes; I had every friggin' app you could imagine"—she didn't see this one coming.
Having experienced a miscarriage before she and boyfriend of four years Matte Babel discovered they were expecting Atlas, "I was so grateful to be able to be pregnant and I was super excited about it. Of course," she insisted. "But, my mind also took a toll on me and it was extremely difficult. And it was just something I wasn't prepared for."
She had readied herself to struggle after delivery "because I had heard so much about it—my mom had it," she noted of PPD. "I had several conversations with a therapist about it." But following her 33-hour October 2019 labor, she actually felt pretty great, a high that continued right up until about Mar. 11, 2020.
With the world shut down due to the coronavirus, "I felt the least motivated I ever have," she shared. "We all weren't going anywhere. Everything had kind of come to a halt and so truly I just thought, well, eff it." Workout plans were tossed out the window along with her long-held "everything in moderation" way of eating.
Bottom line, as she put it in a phone call to pal Steph Shepherd, "I don't know about you, but I feel s--tty."
Having slid from the first few months of postpartum into the free-for-all that was 2020 "eating 100 percent s--ty food," she said, "not really sleeping and then having five coffees a day just to stay a little bit awake for my four o'clock Zoom," had taken a toll and she missed feeling good about her body.
"That's the thing we don't talk about as much as new moms," she explained. "There are people that can kind of mom shame and be like, 'Well just be happy, don't be sad about your body now. It provided this beautiful life.' Yes, it absolutely did. But I don't think that there's anything wrong with wanting to feel strong again."
Approached with the idea of signing on for Openfit's 4 Weeks of Focus with trainer Kelsey Heenan, she was pumped but skeptical.
A fitness fanatic who spent 90 minutes a day in the gym pre-pandemic, "I was like, 'Mmmkay. So she's telling me I'm going to feel better and feel stronger in 20 workouts for four weeks? Thirty minutes a day?'" she admitted. "I didn't actually believe it. I was like, 'So you want me to do sneaky workouts on the side?' They're like, 'No. Just do the 30 minutes.' And I'm like, 'Okaaaay.'"
After four straight weeks kicking off her mornings with lemon-infused warm water and a 30-minute sweat session ("It included HIIT, it included cardio, it included strength training," she said of the varied full-body routines) and recommitting to healthy meal choices ("If I want pizza, I'll have pizza and dump some spinach on it") a different word came to mind. "I was like, 'Hoooooly...' you know," she admitted. "I've been active my entire life. I have never lifted a 40-pound weight, lifted a 50-pound."
Now that carrying 25-pound Atlas up the stairs is literally no sweat, she shared her impressive AF results with her nearly 30 million Instagram followers, then doubled down, kicking off another four weeks with Babel, who "always looks great," she admitted, "but he's incredibly in shape right now."
For Mitchell the paint-by-numbers-approach of 4 Weeks of Focus was a huge draw. "I want to do a workout where I'm just told what to do," she explained. "And that is why personal trainers get paid a lot of money. Because you walk in, and you have someone tell you what to do that is going to give you the results that you want."
Heenan certainly delivered. "People are always like, 'Oh, do you feel like you have to snap back?'" Mitchell explained of one of the more frequent postpartum questions. "And my thing in all my conversations after having Atlas was, 'No, I want to snap forward.' And I feel like I have. I feel like I'm a better version physically, mentally and emotionally than I was prior to having her."
Which is why she feels she just may be ready for round two...
Because, yes, while she didn't love the swollen fingers, the exhaustion, the need to embrace elastic waistbands, she is absolutely infatuated with the end result.
The Béis founder fills her hours after Atlas' bedtime staring at pictures and videos of her giggling toddler and feels that specific brand of baby-related amnesia set in when she's around friends' new additions. "It's such an interesting circle that happens," she said. "You forget everything at the newborn stage when you see a new baby, you're like, 'Oooh, the little clothes again!'"
Fittingly, her little Atlas is her whole world.
"It's just been so incredible," the Vancouver native gushed of her motherhood experience. "And everybody feels this, but I've never known a love like this. Just to see her pick up the different mannerisms and see a little bit of Matte and see a little bit of myself in her."
With each day bringing a new milestone, a chance to rediscover the world through a tiny person's eyes, "I'm just like, this is it. This is it," summed up Mitchell. "It's just so much fun."