Shawn Johnson East has already stuck the landing, so to speak, when it comes to parenting. Which is why she feels particularly equipped to manage when she and husband Andrew East add a third baby to the mix later this year.
Having spoken to two of Andrew's sisters—who have seven kids between them—and best friend Mallory Ervin (a mom of three), "For the most part, they all say the same thing: 'You're just adding another. It's a lot, but it's something you can handle,'" the Olympic gymnast told E! News in an exclusive interview. "So I was like, 'Okay, bring it on.'"
Daughter Drew, however, just might be a helicopter sister.
"Every day she's like, 'Mommy, your belly's growing. Does that mean the baby's growing? Is the baby happy?'" relayed Shawn. "She's worried about, like, pushing on my belly too hard."
And the 3-year-old (who has her fingers crossed for a little sister, says Shawn) has already volunteered for night nanny duties.
"She talks about how the baby's going to sleep in her room and she's going to take care of the baby," shared the 31-year-old. "And I think, 'This is great.'"
Because, truthfully, the toddler just might be a natural born caretaker.
"My daughter is an empath—she feels everyone's emotions," said Shawn, also mom to son Jett, 2. Which is why Shawn said she and her husband, a former NFL long snapper, started having "a lot of very open conversations about how people need help and it's our responsibility to help them in any way we can."
Sometimes that means broaching some tough subjects using toddler-friendly language. "We've had a lot of friends go through some tragic things with their kids, so we've had a lot of conversations with our daughter about needed to pray for a baby in the hospital or needing to wrap a gift for someone in the hospital because they have a boo-boo," said Shawn. "We try to bring it down to their language."
Though she doesn't anticipate it being too difficult to explain to her brood why they're hitting up their local Dairy Queen July 27 for Miracle Treat Day when the proceeds from every Blizzard sold go to local children's hospitals through Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Noted Shawn, "I mean, I have toddlers who love ice cream with anything in it."
And while she's happy to relive her youth ("My coach would take us to Dairy Queen if we had good trainings") the small act, said Shawn, feels like "the least we can do as a supportive community to put as much into these funds as possible so that families feel supported."
Plus, now well into her fourth pregnancy, she's got some cravings to satisfy. "I feel good," said Shawn. "I forget I'm pregnant, except for the fatigue and the aches and pains."
And, mostly, she feels grateful to reach this place—anxiously awaiting the 20-week anatomy scan—after nearly a year of trying. "I learned firsthand the very first time we got pregnant and we ended up losing that one," she explained, "you grow up watching movies, thinking it's going to be the most romantic thing in the world and it's not in any way shape or form. Because it's so terrifying when it actually happens."
So while they're "so excited and cannot wait for this little person," said Shawn, they've experienced a whole gamut of emotions since they first started trying last summer.
"I am fully aware we are still so blessed," she acknowledged. "Ten months is nothing, like, nothing. We've had friends trying for years and years and years. But with every passing month, it gets frustrating and it gets even more less romantic. And it just becomes a thing and so when you finally get a positive test you're like, 'Okay, what is this going to mean? Will it be positive in a week?'"
Should all go to plan, Shawn will undergo her third—and final—c-section in late fall.
"I feel like at the moment, our family is complete with three," she shared. And while Andrew, who has four siblings, is less convinced, "I said, 'Well, I can tell you this, this will be my last pregnancy.' I'm up for helping babies around the world who need families. I think we can have that conversation later if that's something we want to talk about. But this will be our last pregnancy."
Having birthed two large babies, courtesy of her 6-foot-2 former football pro husband, the 4-foot-9 athlete is well aware "the damage C-sections can do," she noted. "And I've been so lucky to be able to get pregnant and carry babies. But three C-sections will take a toll. And I want to be able to be that mom that's chasing my children around for years and years and years."
Though she may need to up her stunt game to impress Drew.
In addition to showing a love for dance and "anything girly," Drew has recently gotten into her mom's chosen sport, the 2007 World Champion revealed. "She does a gymnastics camp that she loves, but it's, like, a padded playground." (Son Jett, meanwhile, "loves everything music.")
But when Drew is looking for a little extracurricular instruction, "She still asks Daddy to teach her gymnastics stuff instead of me, which kills me," said Shawn, who took home three silver medals and a gold at the 2008 Olympics. "I think it's the funniest thing in the entire world. Like she wanted to learn a handstand and I was like, 'Let me show you.' And she's like, 'No, no, Mama. Daddy.' And I was like, all righty."