Alyssa Milano has had two abortions, two miscarriages, and two births.
She said she'd been triggered by sexual trauma and worried that her miscarriages were punishments.
But she said she'd learned to "ride the wave" of motherhood.
Alyssa Milano said that becoming a mother had changed her in many ways.
"It definitely made me more loving. It made me more outraged. It made me more concerned for our planet. It really has been a revelation to find the true essence of who I am," the actor and author said on a recent episode of the podcast "Me Becoming Mom."
Milano is mom to Milo, 10, and Elizabella, 7. In the podcast, she talked about having two abortions, two miscarriages, and two births, both of which were C-sections.
Milano said that she always knew she wanted to be a mom and that she'd adopted many animals along the way to try to fill that desire. But when she became pregnant twice in her 20s, she knew the timing wasn't right. She joined the estimated 1 in 4 American women who will have an abortion during their reproductive years.
"For me, personally — and obviously these are such personal decisions — my inability to not be a selfish 20-year-old was reason enough. But then there was a lot that I wanted to do before I had children," she said. "And the point was that I was given a choice to control my life and to control my own destiny."
Milano's differing views on miscarriage
Milano said that when she met David Bugliari, now her husband, she knew she wanted to have children with him. She was already 36, so they started trying immediately, she said, but their first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
Milano said she felt relatively zen about it at the time: She felt that her body was doing what it needed to do to cope with an unviable pregnancy. Still, she said part of her worried that the miscarriage and another that happened while she was trying for a second baby were punishments for her abortions.
"It took a while in therapy to realize that that was something that I was putting on myself," she said.
Pregnancy and past trauma
Milano said she loved being pregnant and monitoring the changes to her body. She said that while she developed an aspirational birth plan she's described as "vaginal birth or bust," when her water broke, the plan was out the window.
Milo was delivered by C-section, and later Elizabella was too. Milano said that though it wasn't what she'd been hoping for, she embraced that birth method and the scar it left behind.
"How many people can say, 'This is where they cut me open, removed all of the organs in the way, got my baby out, gave me my baby, put all of the organs back in, and then stitched me and stapled me up'?" she said. "I mean, it's like — there's something very tribal about it almost. It feels almost like a tattoo in a way."
Milano also said that though she had come to terms with the C-section, she realized that giving birth had triggered trauma from sexual assaults.
"I remembered at one point really not enjoying the fact that lots of people had access to my vagina," she said. After Milo's birth, she struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety that she attributed to that trauma, she said, adding that she would like to see more sexual-assault survivors talk about that aspect of giving birth.
Mental health and motherhood
Milano said that the experience of becoming a mother is so intense that she thinks it's miraculous that anyone can give birth without developing postpartum depression or anxiety.
"I'm so convinced that every mother goes through some type of this — whether it be depression or anxiety — this romantic idea of childbirth and having a child ... and it's just not like that. It's just not," she said. "It's wonderful, but it's also terrifying. I think we would be better to say that out loud."
Over time, Milano learned to embrace the unpredictability of motherhood, she said.
Digging your heels in about something — having a vaginal birth, avoiding medication, or adhering to a certain parenting style — can make things more difficult, she said. Milano said she tells other moms to just go with the flow.
"That is maybe the first lesson that a child will teach you: Whatever you think, whatever you plan for, that you have to be adaptable and be able to go with the flow and ride the wave," she said.
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