The mom of toddler daughter Luna Marie, currently starring as Regina Vasquez in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth (the show’s winter premiere airs Tuesday, January 3rd at 8/7c) and well-known from her role as Angie on The George Lopez Show, shares her thoughts on green parenting, where she turns for parenting advice, how she found humor in her struggle with infertility, and what has surprised her most about motherhood.
What’s Luna Marie up to these days? Is she in the terrible 2’s?
She’ll be 3 in February. Luckily, I have “Gandhi Baby.” I’m pretty blessed because she is very even-tempered; when she’s not, it really does stand out. But the good thing is that she’s always very verbal, she can tell me—sometimes it’s a pain in the butt—but she can tell me exactly what she does not like, what she likes, and what she’s OK with.
We call her “The Negotiator.” If I tell her we have to go and I give her a two-minute warning, she’s like, “Five more minutes, Mama! No, six more minutes! No, seven more minutes!” And it goes back and forth until I have to say, “This is not a negotiation.”
When something is a “have-to,” she knows it’s not negotiable, there’s no back-and-forth about it… I am bad cop; her dad is good cop. She knows if Mama says something one time, I mean it.
Are you in the midst of potty training? How do you think cloth diapering has impacted that process?
She was potty trained by the time she was 2. She did it mostly herself. She does still wear a diaper because she cannot stay dry all-night. She sleeps through the night about half the time. She was a great sleeper—it’s just this diapering thing.
Because I’m doing Switched at Birth, a single-camera drama, that means that I can work up to 15 hours a day, and you get really, really tired, so sleep becomes a precious commodity—even more precious than it normally is! So I did an experiment and thought I would try just one disposable diaper, and I felt so guilty but I was like, “I just need a little more sleep!” So I borrowed one from a friend of mine and I put it on her, and in the middle of the night, she peed and she knew she had peed! It wasn’t that she felt it, but she knows that when she’s wet, she needs to take it off. I was like, “Darn it! The cloth diapers work too well!”
Did you ever anticipate that some fans would come to know your work through your diapering choices [detailed in a People.com blog about cloth diapers]?
I really had no idea that it was going to be as popular as it was because out of all the moms that I knew from my mommy groups and stuff, I was the only one doing it, and they looked at me like I was a little bit crazy. Because instead of my diaper bag getting lighter, it would get heavier because it was filled with wet, heavy diapers. And they knew they always had to wait for me because I always had to make sure that she got changed because she couldn’t just sit in her diaper forever. I was really surprised when there were so many people out there who were really embracing it. I was very happy to hear that. I also felt better for the environment; I felt better for their kids, because it’s healthier for them. And I just thought it would be so cool if I could just inspire some people to just try it even half the time—you don’t have to do it all the time, but half the time. It was wonderful.
Do blogging, Twitter, and Facebook impact your parenting—do you feel you get support that you need or does it ever feel hard to expose your private life to so many strangers?
I think it takes a village to raise a child. I have gotten some very good tips and advice through the Internet. For example, I asked some random question on Twitter and got so much feedback, and one of them had a really, really helpful hint. And I thought that’s just awesome! I mean, you have to set your own boundaries as to how much you’re going to share. But I sort of think of it as an extension of a mommy group or an extension of a village. And if it’s helpful stuff, why not use it?
Your blog post about your struggles with infertility and miscarriages is surprisingly funny for such a difficult topic. How were you able to find the humor in such a dark and sad time?
Because that’s all you have to hold on to when it’s so dark. I’m actually currently writing a book about my fertility struggles, and it has that exact same tone. It’s going to be about that because I found the fertility journey to be one of the loneliest, most depressing places, and at those times was when I needed people to just perk me up a little bit. And I thought if I could write a book or a post and someone can read it and just get a little bit inspired or even just chuckle for the day, because they’ve had such a horrible day, then it’s worth it. It’s important. Because it’s brutal. It is not for sissies, that’s for damn sure.
I read that you still have some embryos frozen. Have you thought about going through it again? Do you want to have a sibling for Luna Marie or do you just feel like you’re past that point and don’t want to head back into that territory?
I am contemplating it. Our chances with those embryos is very slim just because of the thawing and freezing and their age–I had only a two percent chance of getting pregnant anyway with Luna Marie. That’s why she’s like my little miracle baby. And we worship the ground she walks on. I have to be certain I’m OK with it if it doesn’t happen and if it does happen, then it’s just a beautiful thing. I think I’m going to be OK either way. If we get to have more that would be awesome, and if we don’t then I’m perfectly content and we’ll just love Luna Marie extra.
How did you cope with all of that as an actress? You mention being bloated and the timing of hormone injections, etc.?
Trying to be funny if you’ve just had a miscarriage is the worst timing possible. I think women are amazing human beings in the amount that we can take on, and the amount of multitasking and compartmentalization that we do to get through our day, no matter how bad the day is. Women are like warriors; I come from a long line of strong women. And I heard from friends of mine that, yes, it’s going to be horrible and there will be some really dark times, but If it gets you to that beautiful baby or to the family that you so desire, be it through fertility treatments or adoption or donor eggs, you just have to keep going.
Where do you turn to for parenting advice—now, but especially when you were a new mom?
My mommy group was an amazing support. It was run by a psychologist who was really, really helpful. I developed good relationships with some of those moms. At first I thought, “Oh, I don’t need a mommy group… I’m working, I have a nanny.” And I felt guilty for being a working mom and going to a mommy group, like taking time off from my day to go to a mommy group. And then I realized that the mommy group wasn’t for the kid, it was for me: so I didn’t lose my mind!
I felt like we were like war buddies, we were in the trenches together and only we understood that your baby was latching onto your nipple for 45 minutes, and you were just freaking out and couldn’t handle it anymore but knew that you had to do it anyway, and it was still the most beautiful thing in the world that you could be doing—but you were going insane while you were doing it. Only a woman whose nipples are cracked and bleeding as much as yours really understands.
Was your mom a source of advice as well?
My mom is a working mom and didn’t breastfeed me. That was a different generation ago, and it wasn’t necessarily how I wanted to or was able to do things. What I’m really good at is taking bits and pieces of advice from every source. I read a lot, used the Internet a lot… I mean I’m a Virgo, type-A, control freak, so I loved doing research and I sort of developed that habit when I was on my fertility journey. I was doing research on what could be impeding my fertility and what could be making it better and I just continued that when I became a mom.
What has surprised you the most about motherhood? Are there decisions that you’ve made as a parent that would have surprised or even shocked the pre-baby you?
I am very surprised at how patient I am. I mean, I’m startled by how patient I am. I’m a pretty patient person, but it’s really weird when my daughter would hurt herself or would be inconsolable—I thought I might get embarrassed by my kid making a loud noise or crying or me not being able to fix things. You get this mom superpower and you go into Zen mode—like, let me just hunker down and figure out what I’ve gotta do to make the situation better. I can’t act upset because that will upset my kid even more, and I can’t ignore my kid because that will freak my kid out even more. And you get kind of really neutral, and focused and patient.
Do you have any favorite go-to eco-friendly brands for clothes or toys for your daughter?
- Plan Toys are awesome.
- For body products, I love Nature’s Paradise—their soaps are so clean with no sodium lauryl sulfate; they have no parabens in their stuff, and Luna Marie has never had diaper rash or any of that stuff. Their products are great, coupled with Happy Heinys cloth diapers.
- The Dandelion brand of dolls are really great.
- Green Toys—because Luna Marie knows that if something is plastic, we’re not buying it. And the good news is that she doesn’t know that other kids get to get all of that stuff, so Luna Marie can say, “I want this.” And I’ll say, “Luna Marie, we don’t buy plastic.” And she’ll go, “OK, Mama,” and walk away! But [Green Toys] are made with recycled plastic.
- Apple Park, which makes sweet, sweet little stuffed animals with all-organic stuffing and the fill is so clean. I mean, kids have got freaky allergies now—I mean, the statistics are that they’re born with something like 217 toxins in their bloodstream already.
How do you not freak out about things like that? Is it just a matter of taking action when and where you can?
Yeah, I know it’s not going to be perfect. And I was really committed with Luna Marie was first born, because when they’re first born, the brain-blood barrier is not completely sealed, so everything just goes into them, like all the flame retardants that are in our furniture and stuff and clothing. That’s just a chemical that builds up in their body, and their body mass is so small and the barrier is still so open that they just… They did a study where the pregnant moms had three times higher levels of that flame retardant chemical in their blood system, and a baby's levels were 10 times higher.
So, once I became a mom, I picked and chose my battles: her pajamas did not have flame retardants; she did not have it in her carpet in her room; she had a mattress that didn’t have it in it. But I couldn’t control everything. And I knew the cleaner I kept her as a newborn and in her first couple of years, the stronger her immunity would be the older she got. I’ve got the kid that sticks everything in her mouth, so all the things she could put in her mouth have no BPA, they’re not plastic, there’s no lead in the paint. It’s hard, but I think that moms make things happen—and the more moms speak out, the better. You may not have as many toys, but you may have fewer, cleaner toys because they may be more expensive and harder to find, but less is more!
What do you recognize of yourself in Luna Marie?
I hope I can take credit for this: optimism. The ability to make mistakes and be OK with it. Recently, something happened and something dropped. And I said, “Aw, Mama made a mistake!” And she goes, “That’s OK, Mama! Next time!” And I thought, “Oh my god, I love you! Thank you!” She has the attitude that it’s OK, accidents happen, next time we’ll do better, which I don’t remember ever teaching her, but that’s kind of how she is. She also loves to dance. I’m taking full credit for that!
What do you recognize of your fiancé [NBA yoga instructor Kent Katich]?
She’s very feisty. She gets her feisty, teasing personality from her dad. She calls herself “Shirley Burpy,” who is the fourth stooge from The Three Stooges. She thinks it’s the funniest name in the entire world. This is when she’s flopping and flipping and it looks like she’s going to kill herself, but she just thinks it’s hilarious when she falls down sometimes.
What’s your favorite thing to do as a whole family? Favorite thing to do just you and Luna Marie?
As a whole family, I like it when we all three crawl into our big master bed and read books. Because she doesn’t watch TV that much, but she has such a passion for reading—she’s gotta read 20 books a day. She’s excited when people buy books for her. She uses her imagination because she doesn’t have the TV to fall back on. She only watches 30 minutes a day, three days a week. I see how passionate she is about reading, and how she will sit on her own and read her books on her own. She’s read them so many times that she has them memorized.
For the two of us together, I think my favorite is just us driving in the car, running errands because she gets so excited going to the car wash and looking at the different colored bubbles. Really, just mundane things excite her so much. We have good conversations in the car. She asks me what everything is, and Mama makes sure that she’s had plenty of coffee so that I can explain everything ad nauseum.
How do you and your fiance get time together as a couple? Do you have regular date nights?
Both of our schedules are so erratic that we can’t really plan anything regular. But every once in a while, we have to leave the house, we have to go somewhere—we can’t just sit next to each other on the sofa and stare at a movie and eat popcorn—although those nights are fabulous. We do have to make a plan and go have dinner, and we make sure that we go somewhere that we’ve never been before, it has to be far from the house and we have to talk to each other, and our phones off—well, on vibrate, in case the nanny calls! But we don’t get to that as often as we should. I think we really have to work on that—I think every couple has to work on that.
How do you balance your work schedule with being the mom of a toddler? Do you ever bring her on the set?
Sometimes I bring her to the set, but it’s a single-camera drama and she’s still so young—she doesn’t understand that other people are pretending to be my daughters. That would be weird for her, I think, and she also doesn’t understand why I’m doing crying scenes. Essentially, when she comes, she thinks I work in the makeup and hair trailer and that I get my makeup and hair done all day. I let her go there and pretend to put make up on (basically just Evian water sprayed onto a brush—because I am not letting makeup on her face!). And I also will have her send me pictures throughout the day on my phone, and I send her pictures of the people I’m with and what I’m doing. We’re still connected.