Blessings & Banes is the reverent honouring of the Journey. To celebrate motherhood and womanhood, we sit with three women to hear their stories – the good and the bad. Today, Carissa sits with Brie (@briebenfell).
Brie is an actress, model, host, and mom to Theadora, her eight-month-old daughter. Our teammate Carissa sits with Brie as she joins us for our Blessings & Banes campaign shoot; during which she talks about her journey of becoming a mother, pregnancy wins and woes, and her new podcast (@makingofmotherhood).
Carissa: Congratulations on becoming a mom!
Brie: Thank you!
How has motherhood been so far?
Brie: Okay so, loads of my friends have always wanted to be Mothers, that was the number one thing they always wanted and in my twenties, I never really felt that. I knew I wanted children but it wasn’t on top of my to-do list!
So when (my husband) Matthew and I started trying and now that I am a Mum, I realised how much I wanted and needed it [tears up] I told you I’d get emotional! [Laughs] Motherhood has been everything I ever wanted. Now I wish I did it sooner because it’s so truly the greatest gift.
Carissa: Was Thea a planned baby? Like did you want to have her last year?
Brie: Yeah, we spoke about it and I used the Flo app which tracks my period because I’m so bad with tracking. You know when you go into the doctor’s office and they’re like, “When’s your last period?” and my reply is, “I don’t know, a couple of weeks ago? I’ve got no idea.” [Laughs]
I got that app because I need to know these answers and I need to know if my body is actually having a period every month and how long for, etc.! So I did that for ages, and I’d say to Matt, “This is the day… of ovulation…” [Laughs]
Lots of my friends have been through IVF and have struggled to get pregnant and you know, I didn’t know if I could get pregnant. I think I was always negative thinking about getting pregnant, I don't know why I had these thoughts, but I did? But we tried and it was the biggest blessing – I was pregnant!
What was your reaction when you found out you were pregnant?
Brie: I had a feeling! There were a couple of things that happened to me. I knew it wasn’t normal. First was, I just started crying for no reason [laughs] All the emotions, “This is weird. I don’t tend to do this ever…”
But I ignored it; then I was on the MRT and I felt so sick. It was busy, there were no seats, and I sat on the floor, I didn’t even care because I felt so ill. And then this one woman said, “Are you okay?” Of course, no men offered! She asked, “Would you like my seat?” And I said, “Yes, please, I feel very sick.” I stayed on the train and missed my stop because I just needed to sit down so I knew that wasn’t normal.
Then I was just in denial, “I’m so not (pregnant)...” but I had to find out. I normally buy the cheap pregnancy tests (when I’ve had a couple of scares with Matthew) because they can be quite pricey [laughs] but this time I chose to buy ClearBlue – fancy brand – because I was thinking, “This might actually be it!”. I wanted to call my sister immediately, I’m very close to my sister. Matthew and I were also not believing it, “Is this real? I don’t know, should we buy another test?” which we did!
I didn’t realise it would be so soon but we felt so lucky! So nerve-wracking too, because I was so scared to give birth, like yes I wanted to have a baby – no, I didn’t want to give birth. It was instantly like, “Oh, god.”
Now that you’ve had baby Thea, what were some things you’ve heard about pregnancy that are completely true?
Brie: Everyone says get sleep, get as much sleep as one can physically get. Um, which is true. [Laughs] When you have a newborn and even now – Thea’s eight-months-old – you just don’t get a full night’s sleep, you just get broken up sleep. It can be from your baby, your breasts, thinking you hear your baby. Your body and brain, even when sleeping, care about your little one more than anything else
It’s like a little roller coaster. My energy is normally great, and then it probably takes about a month and I get so sleep deprived that I crash and burn [laughs]. I then have to cancel plans and just sleep for the day, sleep with Thea when she naps, then I feel ENERGETIC [smacks hands].
Sleep deprivation is a real thing, but one good night's rest and I’ve got my energy level back. Thea gives me more energy than I’ve ever had before, ever!
Carissa: Aww, she’s like your little caffeine baby! [Laughs]
Brie: Yeah, pretty much! [Laughs] She’s my energiser bunny; as soon as I see her in the morning, I get up! I’ve NEVER had that – I’d stay in bed. 7AM was never my morning wake-up call, I would normally wake up around 10AM.
And what were some things you’ve heard about pregnancy that are completely false?
Brie: I think there's just a lot of things that moms don't share. And now that I’ve been a new mother for a bit, I think I understand why because you feel – you just go on with things and you tend to forget. Things that are so important in pregnancy soon become irrelevant now because I’m busy doing other things with Thea.
So, weird symptoms I got, just things like – anal fissures, which is like when you like bleed from your… bottom. Most people have had it, y’know when you wipe and there’s blood?
Carissa: Wait, pregnancy causes that?
Brie: No, not pregnancy, but after birth, because of breastfeeding. It gets dry and so I had to go to the doctors and yeah. I’ve had weird symptoms during pregnancy and loads of people get them, but no one ever gives anyone a heads up. I wish people gave me a heads up.
Were there ever any moments you were questioning yourself before becoming a mom? Did you have any fears?
Brie: I think the only thing Matthew and I thought about was when we were in the hospital and we were lying on the hospital bed together. I was only 0.5 dilated, which is nothing, and we had to wait for the doctor to come in the next day, and I was just… sad that we were going to become three! Like that was it, “Oh my gosh, it’s never going to be just Matthew and I!” And that was just my biggest thought which is selfish, but I suppose normal to think about.
We’ve travelled the world and have done so many things together… We spoke about it for hours, about how wonderful our relationship’s been and our entire six years together and it was just so sweet.
Carissa: Aww, that’s so sweet! I – If it helps, my mom says she has so much time now to spend with dad now that all of her kids have grown up [Laughs] So don’t worry!
Brie: [Laughs] Oh gosh, I’d probably be like, “Don’t want it! I want my kids back!” [Laughs]
What kind of relationship do you hope to have with Thea?
Brie: I really… [Laughs] Oh my gosh this is where I’m going to start getting emotional again! Oh my god, I cannot cry again [Laughs]
I really do want to be best friends with her and I do want to have that mother and daughter bond too. That would be the perfect mix. I want her to come to me with anything and everything and I would really hope to give her the best advice I can and help her along life’s journey.
You’re a host, an actress, and a model! Did you have any expectations from people for you to bounce back after pregnancy?
Brie: So, I – it really is that. I think people just have to put on this smile and be like, “Yep, I’ve given birth and everything’s amazing!” And I hate that that’s a thing. I… just live my best life. I didn’t go on a diet and I didn’t work out – exercising and fitness is a huge thing to me but I just listened to my body. Honestly, during pregnancy and after birth, I’d buy a latte and a pain au chocolat every day.
Carissa: Yes!!! Treat yourself!!!
Brie: Yes! [Laughs] “I’m not bouncing back for you! I’m going to bounce back when my body is ready and I’ve listened to my body.” I think people actually tend to hurt themselves in the long run because their body isn’t ready to do all these things… your body has created life! You have grown a human inside of you for nine months. I personally believe it would take nine months to recover!
Carissa: Oh my god. I feel like I’m learning so much and I’m still scared [Laughs]
Brie: [Laughs] No, no don’t be scared!
What are some things you used to be able to do every single day and now that you have a kid, you can’t do anymore?
Brie: I think things have gotten better for me. I’ve realised what my time is worth in anything I do. Whether it's work or play, I know now that my time is important and extremely valuable – because now it’s with Thea and Matthew. So to take that away from me, it really has to be worth it.
Before, I’d be like, “I’ll do this! I’ll do that! I’ll do it all!” And now I’ve realised that I don’t want to be that way. I’ve taken time to only do what’s really important, only hang out with the people who I really, really love. I want to be surrounded by good energy only.
Carissa: Handling time?
Brie: Yeah. I just respect my time a lot more, Google Calendar’s the love of my life [Laughs] If it’s not in my Google Calendar, it doesn’t exist! I’ve actually become very upfront, even to friends, it has to be in my Google Calendar, tell me a time, tell me a date, or else it ain’t gonna happen [Laughs]
That’s just how I live my life now. You have to when you are a working mom; juggling all my things can be challenging. My time at the moment has been all things Theadora and a secret project coming up – I should actually talk about it [Laughs]
It’s for pregnant women and after birth. It’s essentially your virtual BFF throughout pregnancy and postpartum, it’s not just fitness but it’s talking to experts – just one place you can go to and learn all the things you need to learn. I wish I knew everything that will be on it which is why we are creating @theanjeaway!
Tell me a little bit about your new podcast!
Brie: So I met Sharon (my podcast co-host) through Motherswork and we instantly hit it off and I knew I wanted to do something with her. Motherhood is just so much, what you go through emotionally and physically through pregnancy and then you become a mother.
I truly wish I knew so much more going into it! Like breastfeeding and formula, some people ask me, “How many millilitres is she drinking?” Umm, “I don’t know, she’s drinking from my boob, I have no idea!” You do learn ‘on the job’ but I wish I knew certain things before.
We knew we wanted to come up with this podcast to talk with experts, celebrities and real parents to really help ALL moms and to share that with as many people as we can which podcasts are great for. So we created The Making Of Motherhood! Go find it on Spotify now [Laughs]
Going back to Thea, what characteristics do you think she has from you and from Matt?
Brie: It’s so funny because she’s only 8 months but she has such a personality! She’s already dramatic. She does this weird cough thing when she doesn’t get what she wants, it’s so weird [laughs]
Carissa: And people will think CO-VID!
Brie: I know! [Laughs] I’m like, “Please don’t cough in front of people!” [Laughs]
She’s also so chill, I truly think whatever energy you have will definitely be put on to your baby. Matthew and I are probably the most chill parents, some people might say we’re a bit too chill [Laughs] But it makes her… chill and having a zen happy baby is delightful.
She’s a very easygoing, happy baby. I let people hold her and play with her so she's already a social butterfly. She's constantly smiling – I play Michael Jackson every day and we dance and now she dances! I play Disney songs and I sing to her and I take her out everywhere. I want her to see the world.
Carissa: How is her relationship with you and her dad? Is she daddy’s little girl?
Brie: Oh, she’s definitely going to be! The way she smiles the moment he comes home and they lock eyes, it’s so sweet. She’s so happy to see him! It just pulls at the heartstrings and it’s just so beautiful! I have a feeling she'll always get what she wants!
What would you say is the best thing about being a mom right now?
Brie: Just – she brings so much joy! Every second that I’m with her, yeah, it’s the best moments. Everything seems so trivial and we are in our Theadora bubble and it's a bubble I forever want to be in. She really is our world, our light. She is my greatest gift. She is my angel sent from heaven. Our miracle...
Brie: Move onto the next question before I cry again!
What is one thing you’ve learnt over the past eight months?
Brie: That women can do anything! Seriously! It’s so incredible, watching my body go from growing life to giving birth – just everything my body’s been through which has affected me mentally, and how strong I am – I didn’t realise how strong I was and I’m super proud of myself [Laughs]
Carissa: I mean you should be!
Brie: Thank you! Yeah, I thank myself [Laughs] “Thank you for being so awesome, body! And mind, everything, I love you!” [Laughs] I’m just so in awe of my journey and want to high five myself and every mom I see on the street.
Do you have any jewellery that you’re going to hand down to Thea?
Brie: Yes, I do! This is why I love jewellery because there are only a few things you can really hand down and completely treasure. I recently got Theadora a diamond necklace that I will give to her, so I will wear it every day until she’s old enough and I’ll pass that down to her. My nana’s – my mom’s mom – has jewellery and I have one of her rings that I love and treasure.
My mom also has beautiful jewellery that I’m hoping she’ll give me at some point when she comes to visit me in Singapore next [Laughs] I have a best friend ring with my BFF in California, so I always wear that. All the jewellery I own has a story – that’s why I love jewellery so much.
Carissa: Thank you so much for doing this interview with me.
Many thanks to Brie for her time and story!