Writer, Creative Director, And Host Laura Perlongo Marries Humor With Parental Leave, Postpartum Recovery, And Pregnancy
For most of us, the transition into motherhood takes us by storm. It’s strange. Very real. And, amazing. Same is true for Laura, wife to Nev Schulman, whose own venture into motherhood left her feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. Therefore, through the lens of her experience, this total babe is embracing the realness and shedding light on controversial issues, such as relationships, motherhood, plus parental leave.
Now, with a baby on her hip and a toddler on hand, we take a beat with this mama. Here, she shares her ever-evolving story from rising corporate career to the release of her comedic viral video highlighting the lack of Parental Leave in the US, the realities of becoming a mama (like, hello, postpartum!), and her motivation behind exposing neglected issues, always with a side of humor (of course). @lauraperlongo
How was life after birth?
After I had my first, the postpartum recovery floored me. I was sweating all the time, my hair was falling out, people were always coming over, and I was expected to pose for endless pictures with the baby. I was overwhelmed and unprepared. No one had talked to me about what that was going to feel like since I didn’t have many friends with kids. Therefore, I made a video with attn: about the realities of postpartum that resonated with so many women.
Plus, there’s an identity crisis that accompanies becoming a new mom (especially in the workplace) as though you’ll no longer be a badass in your career. Therefore, I feel as though women shy away from talking about motherhood because there’s a desire to appear like it’s a seamless transition — which is NOT the case.
Through my videos and internet presence, I’m trying to present a multi-faceted view of motherhood. Because, you can be funny and be a mom, you can be sexual and be a mom, you can go out with your girls and be a mom, and you can love your kids as much as you want to and still have a killer career. There are no rules, and you don’t have to feel bad for how you’re parenting or managing your career.
How was your first pregnancy compared to your second?
With Cleo, my first, pregnancy was super easy; however, very emotional! There was a ton of uncertainty for me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for motherhood and questioned if I would be a good mother. Mentally I was a wreck, but physically, I was fine and didn’t have any complications. With Beau, I had settled into motherhood a bit and in general, felt more relaxed.
What were your birth experiences for both?
The day I gave birth to Cleo, I was so pulled together. They induced me because my fluid was low, so I was prepared to go to the hospital. I rolled up with my bag packed perfectly and two apple pies I’d baked for the nurses! Plus, I had my candles, playlist, and crystals ready to go! All in my induction took about 12 hours, and I pushed for 15 minutes. I held out on getting an epidural until I stopped progressing past 3 cm after 9 hours of intense pain. After the epidural, I dozed off for 2 hours, woke up at 10 cm and it was game on! She came quickly and was in my arms within minutes. All things considered, it was an easy birth.
Beau, however, was a completely different experience. Since Cleo had been so late, I assumed Beau would be too. A week before my due date I went to the doctor, and he said I was about 2 cm dilated, but I didn’t believe him. I figured it would be at least another three weeks until I went into labor. So, after the doctor’s appointment, I had a little breakfast and washed it down with castor oil before taking a nap. A few hours later, I got up, made Cleo dinner, and put her to bed. While we were reading bedtime stories, something moved in me, and suddenly I felt like I was going to have diarrhea from the castor oil! I jumped up and told Cleo that I had to go to the bathroom. Of course, she was like “I’ll come with you!” (welcome to motherhood, no time to yourself 🙂 SO, I ran to the bathroom with Cleo, and it was pretty gross but also funny. At this point I still assumed it was the castor oil.
Then, another wave came over me. I had forgotten what contractions felt like, and it dawned on me this might be it. So, I started timing them on the down-low, because I didn’t want to scare Cleo. They started coming a minute apart! Nev was out giving a talk at the Apple Store,so I had a friend drag him off stage, and rush home. From then on it was exactly like every movie and super dramatic; Nev was driving crazy, and I was yelling that we have to GO faster while full on labor screaming in pain in the car. To say that it was very different from when I had Cleo and pulled up to the hospital with pies in hand would be an understatement.
When we got to the hospital, I thought I was going to be sick and ran to the bathroom to finally get all the castor oil out of my system. Part of me wants to caution not to take castor oil, but at the same time, it got the baby to come (up to you!). After that, he came quickly. By the time I got the epidural, I was 9 cm dilated and pushed six times. All in from my first contraction while reading to Cleo through to delivery was about 5 hours.
While pushing, we had one terrifying moment when his shoulder got stuck. Just as his head came through everyone’s faces went from excited to worried. The doctor assured me everything was fine, but suddenly he called for assistance, and the room filled up with people. Someone got on top of me and was pushing on my stomach. Nev kept telling me all was ok, but I was so scared. I knew something was wrong! It was the longest 30 seconds of my life until finally, they pulled him out!
After that, they had to take Beau away for 10 minutes to check him whereas with Cleo, they put her on my chest right away. Not being with him for the first 10 minutes changed my early relationship with him. I didn’t feel as close to him or have that same euphoria as I initially did with Cleo. Different experiences open your eyes to different mother’s experiences too. Now I truly understand how important skin to skin contact is in those first few moments of life.
What’s been the hardest career decision you’ve had to make related to motherhood?
Before setting out on my own as a writer and media maker, I worked my way up at an agency to Creative Director. Then, about four months after I’d (finally) been named Creative Director—a role I’d been working toward my entire career—I found out I was pregnant! Seemingly the worst timing, not only because I was at the top of my career, but Nev and I had only been dating for seven months, and he was living in LA! Of course, we’d casually chatted about having kids in the distant future, but not any time soon. Therefore, I made the most challenging decision of my career and moved to LA to be with Nev to have our baby. While it was a huge adjustment, in hindsight, it was the best move and great learning. That leap of faith has opened so many doors for me, in ways that I never could have imagined. It allowed me to set my own career path. Although, we have since moved back to NYC as LA was not my jam!
What’s the deal with parental leave in the US?
I couldn’t for the life of me understand how I was supposed to go back to work immediately having a baby. After all, who was meant to take care of her? So, in part, I left my job due to the lack of parental leave that’s offered to employees in the US. Through my experience, I realized this is a great issue that people in our country are trying to navigate every day. For most, it seems, they have two choices, either they don’t see their kids, or they give up their career.
After going through this, Nev and I made another video for attn: about paternity leave citing that the “The U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave.” In short, the video killed it, with over 100 million views and an overwhelming response from people reaching out thanking us for shedding light on such an important topic. It was an election year and a significant issue for candidates. Hopefully, it’s getting better, and I strive to be part of that change.
So, what else are you up to?
I’m continuing to develop additional projects with that mindset. I’ve been working on a couple of shows with Facebook Watch and attn:. Plus, I’ve co-hosted a couple of episodes of Catfish with Nev, which is rad to be part of the incredible work he’s doing. Plus, we have our Facebook Watch series called We Need To Talk. Similar in tone to how I’m talking about motherhood, but for relationships. We focus on issues that we all go through such as, should we move in together, why are you talking to your ex, or I’m not ready to get married. It’s a blast because Nev and I get into the same fights like everyone else and it’s fun to talk about it alongside other couples.
You have so much going on! How do you manage work and momming?
I’m up super early with the babies, get them ready, and drop Cleo off at school. While Beau is napping, I work on emails, read scripts for videos, and get myself organized. For the most part, I do all my work while he’s napping — it’s a little psycho. Once he’s up (which always feels too soon) I spend focused time with him because he’s so young and needs my full attention. After the baby nurse arrives in the afternoon, I pick up Cleo, come home, play with her, make dinner, and put her to bed around 7 pm. I don’t mess around, my kids go to bed at bedtime. Period. Nighttime is my time. After everyone is asleep, I usually work until 10 pm. All in I get about seven hours of quality work done a day but have to be vigilant about switching from kid mode to work mode the second that Beau falls asleep. Plus, I love what I’m working on as it’s an extension of my personality and life, which likely makes it easier to switch gears. The reality is, I’m being a mom and working in between that. That’s what motherhood is like for me.
Plus, while I’m with my kids all the time, there are days I need a trusted set of extra hands. For example, when Beau was ten days old we were filming season two of We Need To Talk for 16 hours a day. I had my incredible baby nurse on set and in the trailer with him and would breastfeed between takes. It’s key to hire people you trust, so you can let go a little and have days that you need to focus on something else.
What are your thoughts on working out, eating, and wellness?
Throughout my pregnancy with Cleo, I craved oranges and only worked out every two or three weeks! With Beau, however, I started eating cake every day and sugary cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch! For comparison, I gained 25 pounds in total with Cleo, and in my first trimester with Beau, I gained 20 pounds! I was like “OH no! I’m not going down like that!” and from that point on, I started working out every day throughout my pregnancy. I did the elliptical and had a trainer once a week to show me safe pregnancy moves. I felt that I was losing control of my body, and this helped me regain control.
While I know, this sounds crazy, after I started working out, I lost 5 pounds in two weeks while I was pregnant, which only proves how much cake I was eating! I was still eating a substantial amount, but I cut out sugar and focused on eating whole quality food like oatmeal without sweetener and fish for lunch. Since I took care of my body during pregnancy, I also felt less stressed to get back to the gym. I was able to give myself the time I needed post-birth.
Now, I work out with a trainer a couple of days a week—trying to get my abs back! Plus, I eat decently, but I’m not on a specific diet or regiment.
What was your pregnancy style?
Mainly I wore my clothes which worked because I have a “boyfriend’s clothes” kinda vibe. Although, at one point during my first pregnancy, none of my pants fit so I went to a maternity store in the suburbs. I was not into it. Everything felt like it was for a 60-year-old woman and was not young, fun, or sexy, which is how I want to feel when I’m pregnant! In short, I freaked out after 6 minutes in the store, left and starting wearing sweatpants with crop tops exclusively.
What’s your idea of self-care?
There’s nothing I hate more than this concept of prioritizing, “me time.” I don’t even know what that is because I don’t want to be alone. I’d rather spend quality time with my family and still feel successful & proud of my work. Therefore, my interpretation of “me time” is a cute tank top that makes me feel sexy all day. This way, the whole day is “me time” because I feel like a cool version of myself.