Opening up about everything from fertility to getting pregnant to placenta smoothies in the latest episode of Personal Space (video above) is literally all in a day's work for Eva Amurri Martino. The mom, wife, and actress is also the mind behind the lifestyle and parenting blog Happily Eva After where she shares her experiences raising daughter Marlowe, 3, and son Major, who turns 1 later this month, with husband Kyle Martino.
Martino dropped some major knowledge about motherhood in Personal Space (read: placenta smoothies), which had us eager to hear more from her on some of the buzziest parenting topics today. Read Martino's conversation with Personal Space below to find out how she deals with online critics, get her take on having help to raise your kids, and learn whether the daughter of Susan Sarandon hopes her children join the family business.
What were some of the things that you were surprised to learn or really blew your mind from what you discussed on Personal Space?
Eva Amurri Martino: Well, you know, I just thought — and I said this while we were there to everyone in between — but I just think it's so important, the reason I really agreed to go on there is I just think it's so, so important to be talking about fertility and motherhood and pregnancy in a way that's really accessible to people and to have a lot of different opinions about those topics discussed. I just think it's really important. One of the things that I run into all the time with my blog is people reaching out to me via the blog, via email, just wanting to get more information about other people's experiences. I think there's a real need for that right now. To be able to have just a panel just talking about our experiences with certain topics, it just felt really important to be a part of that because I think that the more information people have, the more empowered they feel. And these topics are super personal and can be really emotional for people, so I think it's great that people can tune in and just learn a little bit about what other people have been through in those arenas.
You get very personal on your blog Happily Eva After, and you're very open about your life. Is that something that's always come easy to you, to be open about personal issues like parenting or what you're going through with motherhood?
Yeah, I think that for me, I've always found a lot of strength in vulnerability. I feel like for me being as open and honest in writing about these topics really helps me work through my own feelings about them, if that makes sense. Like, it kind of helps me, to give voice to them, it helps me release a lot of the emotion surrounding some of these things that I go through. So for me it's a really important process, the writing of it.
And I think the sharing of it at times has been challenging because with the more controversial topics, there's a lot of fire online because people are so anonymous, so it's a bit harder to share in an online forum because people feel the freedom and the desire to just come after you if they disagree with your opinion or if they have had a separate experience. And the other problem is people really don't read. So in the past, something that I've run into is people will read the headline of whatever I've written about, go down to the comments, or like a summary that's on PEOPLE.com of my article, read the talking points that somebody else has come up with about my article, and then just comment without reading it. So what's really frustrating for a lot of people who work in the online space is people formulating opinions, just snap judgment opinions based really on nothing, based not on the article that they've read but based on hearsay about the topic or just their personal opinions about the topic without really getting into actually what you said. So that's a little frustrating because, obviously, it's useless and lame to want to defend yourself against online critics. It's like, what's the point?
But I think generally speaking, it's been so interesting and empowering to be able to create this community in the online space for people to talk about more — I think controversial's the wrong word because it implies negativity — but I think topics that aren't often talked about, I would say, so openly and honestly. So that's been really amazing, to kind of be a part of that and to see so many women and men come on there to support each other, to help each other, as well as to comment directly to me has been the most amazing part of all of this.
But, you know, I definitely have had moments, more than a handful, when it's just really, really overwhelming to be somebody who's giving voice to a topic that has so much fire behind it and then to have to suffer the consequences of that is a real challenge at times for me, especially when I was pregnant and talking about the more controversial subjects. And I was pregnant and so emotional and so hormonal and then to have to kind of like bear the brunt of people's criticism during that time was probably the hardest part, just because I was so vulnerable at that time. But you learn. You learn a lot. And I think the positives of just having that information out in the world and having those differing opinions out in the world, it's really important. So I'm happy to do it.
Has there ever been a time where you've regretted sharing something, where you felt like you shared too much?
I mean, I think, like, that's the problem, is you can always feel like you're sharing too much, you know what I mean? Like, any amount, if its emotional and means something to you, can feel like you shared too much the moment the criticism starts coming in, you know?
But yeah, there were so many times. Like when my son had his accident. Our night nurse dropped him, and he had a skull fracture. I didn't have to share any of that. That wasn't my responsibility to people to share that. But I knew that, first of all, the after effects of what that did to me and our family, and also just how I was feeling at the time, like all of the postpartum issues that it triggered. I knew that if I was going through that, then there were tons of other people going through that. And so my instinct to kind of be a voice for them was stronger than my fear in that particular situation. But yeah, of course, it doesn't feel great to reveal to the world that you're going through the darkest period of your life and then have people be nitpicky about whether you had somebody rock your kid back to sleep after you were done breastfeeding them at three o'clock in the morning. That just seemed beside the point to me. And it seemed very cruel.
But that's what I've learned, is that there are some people that want to be cruel, and that's just what the online space is. Anybody who's spent time in the online space will tell you the same thing, and you just can't take it personally. People are just going through their own thing, and they just need to lash out sometimes.
Do you try to do avoid reading comments?
No, I mean, I can't really. It's part of what I do. I respond to comments.
And it's more of a dialogue with your blog and on your social media.
Definitely. This is what I've learned: Everyone, really, is just trying to figure it out. And a lot of times, our opinions in the motherhood space have a lot to do with what we were raised with, what we've seen in our own lives. What's interesting about the motherhood space is that there are so many ways to do it, but we get so emotionally attached to our way because it's a topic and an arena that is so loaded emotionally. So we need to feel like we are doing the right thing, which makes us super defensive about our own way. And I think that's what really inhibits people from being able to just be nonjudgmental in this space. Everybody feels this strong pull to defend the fact that what they're doing is right, and what I think some people don't realize is that you can be a perfectly right and good mother within your own family and for your own kids and it doesn't exclude other people from parenting the most perfect and right way for their own kids, just differently. So I think that the more opinions and the more different ways that are out there and the more these topics are discussed without attacking each other, the better we're all gonna be.
What are some of the topics surrounding fertility, pregnancy, and babies that you'd like to see more people talking about?
Well, I think just in general, you know, it's really shocking to me that if you Google "pregnancy after miscarriage," a piece that I wrote like a year-and-a-half ago or two years ago now is the main thing that comes up. It's just ridiculous to me. There should be way more people talking about this. I just think everything in this arena is so hush-hush, it's so don't ask, don't tell. But at the same time, it's so, so emotional, and for the people that are going through these things, it's what they're thinking about every single minute of every single day. You have this really troubling dichotomy of zero information and 100 percent caring about. People are walking around just carrying this all with them internally, which I don't think is good for anyone. So I think generally speaking, this all should be talked about a lot more.
But I think just specifically, things that I've seen is just there isn't too much about the emotions surrounding fertility. Like I wrote a lot about how it felt to be pregnant after my miscarriage. I obviously wrote a lot about my miscarriage. I wrote a lot about what it felt like, I wrote a piece about my experience parenting my rainbow baby, which was way different than how I expected to feel. And also kind of brought up a lot of feelings that I kind of had to check for my son's wellbeing and for my parenting abilities. I kind of had to put some of these feelings that were about me, not about him and kind of remove them from my parenting process.
So I think that people talk a lot about, "Oh, these are the statistics. This is what can happen. These are the different methods of infertility." But I think the more people understand and communicate what these people are living with that are dealing with these issues, the stronger the support systems can be that are created around them. I know people who are under 30 who are having huge fertility issues right now. I think there's a big misconception that this is an older woman problem, that it's rarer, but it's really not. And so I think it makes those people going through it feel really alienated, which they shouldn't. So I think that just the more people go through it, and there are some brave people, there are some bloggers that I know that are dealing with these issues right now, that are talking about it, whether it's on their Instagram, their Insta stories, just updates for people. So there's already tons on information, but I think the more it becomes accessible to the average person, the better off everybody's gonna be.
What do you think is the question or the piece of advice that people seek out from you and your blog the most? What do you get asked the most often?
It kind of depends. I think a lot of times when people, when I see a trend in questions, I end up writing a piece about it because I think it's useful for people to have something that they can always go to that's always there, like a post on the blog that they can reference. But I do get asked a lot like, "How do you get through a pregnancy after miscarriage? How do you deal with that? When will I feel better?" I think people want to hear this answer like, "Oh, in this amount of weeks or this amount of months or whatever." But in my experience, it really is one day at a time. The reality is once you've experienced a pregnancy loss, you're robbed of that kind of joyful naiveté of just thinking that everything's gonna be OK. You'll never have a pregnancy like that that maybe some of your friends or your family members might have where you're just trusting that every time you go to the doctor it's gonna be good news. You're trusting that they can pick out clothes and names and whatever and everything's gonna be fine. Once you have a pregnancy loss, that's never gonna be you. And so I think that that is a really tough thing to come to terms with. And so I have a lot of people asking me questions that I think are trying to convince themselves out of that fact and think like, "Oh, I hope she answers me at this time or at that time." What I would tell them is like, "Look, it's a really heartbreaking thing to have to say you're gonna feel a little unsure for those entire nine months, but in my experience, that's the case." And what I always share is that at a certain point, you just have to take a leap of faith. If you're gonna enjoy the thing, you just have to take a leap of faith, like with anything, and just say, "OK, I'm trusting that this is gonna work out." And if it doesn't, it doesn't, but you don't want to spend that entire time just with one foot out the door.
Do you get a lot of questions about your home birth that you went through with your son Major just because we don't typically see that discussed a lot or hear a lot about people going through something like that?
When he was born, I wrote a really long post about the entire experience with pictures and everything. Actually, people still go back to that post and comment on it. But the reason I wrote it, I mean aside from having his birth story written down somewhere because I did not do that with my daughter [Marlowe] and now I'm too far away from it where the details are kind of gone. I mean, obviously I remember it, but I never wrote it down directly after. So I wanted to do that for him. But I also wanted to be able to just give an example of a birth that was different than your average birth. I mean, my big thing is I think women should birth their babies, as long as they're healthy and their doctor says it's OK, however they want, whether that means in the hospital with no drugs, at home with an epidural, elective C-section, whatever. What breaks my heart is when women feel completely out of control of the process, when they don't feel like their needs or desires are being heard, when they end up with a birth that's traumatizing because they don't feel like they had agency in that birth. That's what breaks my heart. I'm definitely not the person who's gonna sit anywhere and tell you that home birth is the only way to have a baby because I don't believe that. But I do think the only way to have a baby is where you feel great about your birth. So I think that whatever that means to you, it's just so important that women know that they have choices and options and that they don't have to feel pressured into a traditional birth if they don't want to. What I don't think people realize is that even in the hospital, you have way more choices than you think you have. So I just always say do your research, find out if you have certain requests or whatever, the odds are you can get it done. I always say birthing is like having a wedding: really anything is possible.
Another topic that people seem to have a lot of opinions on is whether or not to have help in taking care of your kids. What is your take on that?
Well, I think, for us, for example, we're a dual-income family; my husband and I both work. So we don't really have a choice. Our kids are small, they're not in a full-time school, they have to be with someone because it can't be us every day. So we never really had a choice when it comes to that. But I think even when people do have the choice, I'm always the person that says that the number one most important thing for your kids is that they see and experience happy parents and parents that are enjoying their lives, who are happy with where they are in life, who are fulfilled. And for some people that means taking care of your kids full-time, and for some people that means working outside of the home. And so I think that my opinion is just that whatever you need to be the best parent possible, even if you are a stay-at-home mom and you want to get some help so that you can go and run errands easily or you can go out with your husband every so often, I just think whatever people can afford and what they want to do, at the end of the day, kids know who their parents are, and they have that deep connection with their parents. The most important thing is when they are with their parents that they experience a person that is fulfilled and positive and happy and just a good example of where you want to be emotionally. So whatever you need to get there, I don't judge ever.
It seems like this is another one of those topics, like a lot of what's involved in parenting, in which there are a lot of choices, and people should make the choices that are right for them. But then people have strong opinions based on how they were raised and their own ideas of what parenting should be.
Yeah, I think, too, it's going back to that thing when people are so opinionated, I think a lot of times it has to do with wanting to feel good about your choice that you've made for you. And some people are able to, they have enough self-esteem where they're able to feel good about their own choices without having to look around and see everyone doing the same thing. And some people just don't have that confidence in their choices. And so they need to convince and they need to promote the fact that the choice that they made is the absolute right one because that's the only way that they feel good about their choice. So I think it's more of a personality thing than it is, "Oh, this is right, and this is wrong," because I run into it all the time. I have women who communicate with each other and with me on the blog that are like, "I don't do it that way, but to each their own." Or who agree to disagree. And that's an extremely elevated and enlightened position to be in. To be able to look at someone who's doing something different than you and say, "Wow, OK, I wouldn't do it that way, but I know that what I'm doing is right for me, and I feel good about that," I'm always amazed and impressed when I see people like that.
You've spoken about how you're not planning on expanding your family any further. How did you know that you didn't want to try for any more children after you had your son Major?
I think our road to get two healthy kids was obviously not the smoothest. And so for me, once we found out that he was a boy and we were going to have a girl and a boy, it was so easy to make that decision. I know that there are people who go through so many miscarriages, so many years of infertility and are still trying. It truly amazes and inspires me because my miscarriage and the aftermath of it, it almost killed me. It was by the far the hardest thing I've ever gone through. And just the idea of the risk of that happening again definitely was terrifying to me. We always planned to have two kids. We planned to travel a lot with them as they grow up and that kind of stuff. Clearly, for good or bad, the world is kind of set up for families of four. I grew up with three kids in the family, and it's definitely a little extra tricky having that third kid. That's what is good for us, it's what we can afford with what we want to do with our kids and the opportunities we want to give them. So for us, it just makes sense. I follow 50 people on Instagram who are these humongous families, like five or six kids or whatever, and I just think it's adorable and so cute. But for us and given our path to get here, it just wasn't right for us. We're good with the two of them. I do miss being pregnant, though. Yeah, I do. Now when I see pregnant women, I'm like, "Ohhh, I could do that again but just not the baby part."
Martino and her mom, Susan Sarandon at the 2016 SAG Awards.
Are there times when you do see someone, like a big family on Instagram, and think, "Oh, maybe it would be nice to have one more?"
I mean, I don't miss the baby phase. Like, Major's gonna [be a year old] soon. And I'm definitely not the hugest fan of the tiny baby phase. Like for some people that's their favorite, that little, snuggly phase. That's definitely not my favorite phase. My favorite is starting around nine or 10 months and up. I just find that part really fun when they start getting more mobile and talking and walking and stuff. I just find that so exhilarating to watch. So for me, my favorite phase with my son is about to start, so I definitely am excited for that.
I think for me the big challenge is going to be most of my oldest childhood friends haven't had kids yet because I started kind of early. So that, I think, is going to be hard for me whenever they start having kids three or four or five years from now. And I feel like then I'm gonna get a little ache. Like, "Oh, I wish I could be doing this with them, too." But by that time, there's no way. No.
You've said in the past that you've taken a step back from acting. Are you planning on continuing that or are there any plans to return in the future?
Definitely no plans to return. I'm just feeling so much more fulfilled in every way by what I'm doing now. And I'll deal with an online troll any day over thankless auditions with slimy people. I would just rather be doing what I'm doing now than what I was doing then. I had a few great experiences acting. I had a lot of experiences, obviously, I did it for 15 years. But I would say a handful of really great ones where I just felt so creatively fulfilled and loved the people I was working with and whatever. So I do have those great memories. I'll never say never because who knows, maybe something will come up in the future. I'm definitely not going back anytime soon. But who knows if in the future if something comes my way, I'll feel like will be creatively fulfilling, I'd be open to that, but it won't be for a long, long time.
If your kids see your work or just get the show business bug and they come to you and want to pursue a career in that themselves, what do you think you would say to them?
I mean, here's a really great Jack Nicholson quote which I always tell people is, "When people ask me, 'I want to be an actor. What should I do?'" He says, "Ask yourself, 'Is there anything else that I want to do?' And then do that." It's just a really challenging lifestyle. And I think that people who see it from the outside don't really realize that. But it takes a very specific type of person to be able to really be OK living that lifestyle and not have it affect them emotionally. I would never, it's like my worst nightmare that Marlowe becomes an actress. So I really hope that that doesn't happen. Anybody who spends two seconds on my Instagram can tell that she's definitely a performer, so we'll see how that ends up.
The big thing for me, and obviously I'm gonna support her in whatever she decides, but I definitely want to make sure that she gets a really excellent education, and I also want to make sure that she understands that there are so many things you can do. I think one of the reasons I went into it, this is what I knew, this is what I saw, and I didn't really get a great education about all of my options and what was really out there. I don't think I got a really good insight into the fact that there are so many different things I could be doing. So I really want to be sure that I arm her with a full breadth of knowledge of like, "OK, these are the different careers, based on your interests. This is where you can excel based on your strengths. These are different ways you can apply them," and not just have her feel like because this runs in the family and because she's interested in performing, because you can perform in a lot of different careers. So I just want to make sure that she really picks something that's good for her, that's gonna build up her self-esteem, where she's gonna get out what she puts in, and a really empowering career for her, if she chooses to have a career — that's the other thing. So I just want her to do what makes her happy and not what she feels like she has to do.
There's a photo of your daughter in an astronaut costume on your Instagram, which is adorable but also awesome because we don't always see that sort of thing when it comes to girls.
Yeah, another really important thing to me is that she understands that she can be smart and cute. Like I think that it's really important to me that she knows that you don't have to pick one or the other. If you like girly things, you don't have to then only play with Barbies or whatever. She loves trucks, she loves construction sites, she loves astronauts, she loves space, she loves dinosaurs. She's being a dragon for Halloween. She also is obsessed with princesses. She likes to watch the Barbie movie. She asked for Mermaid Barbie for her birthday. So I want to always promote that, that you can be everything. You don't have to put ourselves — and especially children don't have to these days — put ourselves into these boxes that we traditionally think of.
In Bravo’s newest digital talk show, Personal Space, host Greta Titelman gets Personal on everything from parenting myths to penis size with a (hilarious) panel of comedians, commenters, and experts. Catch Eva Amurri Martino, John Murray, and Dr. Bradley Trivax in the episode above, and check back each Wednesday for new episodes, new guests, and a whole new set of issues.
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