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Lea Michele is used to adapting. From taking her Broadway talents to televisions everywhere during her tenure on Glee, change is something the singer and actress is more than familiar with. However, motherhood has a way of throwing major curveballs that even the most equipped of expecting moms can't prepare for. In Michele's case, it was being told she would have to deliver her first baby via C-section instead of vaginally as she had planned.
"You completely have to let go of control and just have faith. And that's really hard for me," Michele, 35, tells Yahoo Life's So Mini Ways of welcoming son Ever in August 2020 with husband Zandy Reich.
"I had a big call with the hospital before I had the baby and they send you home with this thick book of everything to expect from your experience of your delivery at the hospital and it was like a hundred pages — and 95 or 96 pages were all about a vaginal birth and they only gave five pages on what to expect for a C-section," the star adds.
Michele considered herself a major planner and felt ill-prepared for such a major operation.
"A C-section is a surgery; you get cut deep into your stomach and, you know, you're expected to [after birth] care for yourself, care for a child and be back on your feet like a day later. And it's unbelievable," she says.
Despite her initial hesitations with the procedure, she says her experience has made her view C-sections in a whole new light.
"I think that women feel a sense of failure from having a C-section, [thinking] we didn't do all the same work," she notes. "I was alone in the room for 90% of it. My husband couldn't come in the room and it's scary, and you're laying there and you're strapped down. So I think that any woman that has a C-section or has had a C-section should be so proud of themselves."
Despite the challenges of giving birth during a pandemic, the actress has found silver linings in being able to quarantine with her small family, and her mother.
"It was such a blessing, having such special, private time with our son when he was born," she shares. "[We enjoyed] privacy that we may not have ever had had we not been in a pandemic."
This time away from the world also helped Michele celebrate everything her body accomplished without feeling pressured to "snap back."
"If we weren't quarantining, [I'd be] getting back to work and just having to look the exact same way that you did before — it's unbelievable what our bodies do when they're pregnant," she says. "I had a really challenging pregnancy and a really intense labor and my recovery for my C-section was very challenging. You can't move a lot for days after. And I had complications that extended that time. So I can't imagine the pressure that I would've felt knowing that I can't really physically move, but I have this pressure to get back into shape."
In addition to physical pressures, Michele also noticed unrealistic expectations for her to be the same person, mentally and emotionally, post-baby.
"People around us expect us to be the exact same way, as far as how available we are and how much energy we can give, and everything changes when you become a parent. And so, I think that I had the blessing of being stuck at home to really give myself that physical and emotional time to recover," she says.
Coveted alone time aside, the pandemic was by no means an easy experience for the actress, and the negative effects of isolation were compounded by the fear of the unknown.
"It was really hard during the pandemic, not being able to see family and have them meet my son, but also, you know, being so afraid of what this pandemic could mean for him," she says.
It wasn't until the world started to open back up that she felt some sense of normalcy return.
"I started to feel so much lighter and once the weather started warming up and he could go outside and we could go outside, it was a lot better for my, you know, emotional well-being and I did start working again. The first thing I did was I recorded a lullaby album called Forever, which came out in 2021 and I was able to take my son to the studio with me, which was really nice," Michele shares.
As fun as it was bringing baby to work, she did experience some mild separation anxiety once she fully returned to her craft, reprising her role in Spring Awakening for a special one-night-only performance featuring the Tony-winning Broadway show's original cast. Airing May 3 on HBO and HBO Max, the documentary Spring Awakening: Those You've Known will pay tribute to the production and its reunion performance.
Michele — who leaned on fellow new moms Lily Cooper and Lauren Pritchard for support during the process — says the documentary is something she plans to show son Ever one day when "the time is right."
"I think a lot of people know me from Glee and think that that's where my journey began, but I had a very sort of rich history in New York and in theater and especially with this show. So it's something that is so important and personal to me and something that I'm just incredibly proud of," she says.
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