Ryan Michelle Bathe wants to warn other women not to be shamed into thinking that they should just “snap back” after having a baby. Now, a mom of two boys, 8 and 4, Bathe admits in an exclusive interview with HollywoodLife that she “felt really bad about not losing her baby weight fast enough”, after giving birth to her first son, Andrew. “I had this beautiful, perfect little baby and I loved nursing him. I had so many positive things… but I spent all this time feeling down on myself because I didn’t get skinny,” within a couple of months after giving birth.
The actress, 43, who has now been married to fellow actor, This Is Us star, Sterling K. Brown for fourteen years, feared that “I was never going to be sexy again. I’m never going to be an actress again. I had ruined my career. What had I done, and how did I not prepare better for this?” Bathe, who had a recurring role on This Is Us last season, shared her experiences after speaking on the Hollywood on Health panel at the BlogHer Health Summit in LA on February 1st. She wanted to share with women in the packed audience, that it’s important not to consider yourself a “failure” if you don’t fit into a “certain mold”, for example, if pounds don’t “fall off” after you have a baby, like magazines and books promise. “There’s no such thing as a one size fits all mentality”.
The actress explained that what she didn’t realize after Andrew was born that her feelings about not being able to quickly get back to her “old body” and “old life”, started a chain reaction leading to postpartum depression, which set in at around seven months after giving birth. She didn’t understand what was happening to her. “I didn’t even know I was depressed. I was like, ‘I have to get it together.’ I just remember repeating that, the mantra, I’ve got to get it together, I’ve got to get it together.” Her feelings of inadequacy got so bad that Bathe even began to feel that she “couldn’t be a good mom and protect her baby son the way that I was supposed to. That he didn’t deserve me, that he deserved better.”
She also found that she was “very angry, really, really angry with [her husband] Sterling.” “Angry at him for not gaining weight, at him for being able to continue with his career. I remember saying things to him like, ‘well, you deserve a career because you work out more’, or ‘you deserve a career because you’re not fat.’ You know what I mean? And just being angry that he wasn’t a woman.” Bathe regrets that she didn’t know at the time how to enlist Sterling as an ally, but “I didn’t know how to do that.”
Fortunately, their marriage survived and has thrived. Looking back, Bathe admits that she is “one of the lucky ones that managed to sort of fight my way through the fog.” She says she would have sought clinical help if she had realized that she was in the throes of postpartum depression. “I just didn’t know I was in a fog.”
She believes that the depression lasted over two years until she got pregnant again, and luckily she didn’t experience it again after her second son, Amare, was born. “I think I knew what to expect a bit more, but I also think that once I had two kids, I was like- ‘oh, there is no going back. There is no pre-kid life. It is kid central here.’” That, however, didn’t stop her from still trying to exercise her way back to her pre-baby shape. About six weeks after Amare was born, she actually fell asleep on the floor doing a plank. “Since my first baby, I felt really bad about not losing the weight fast enough, so with the second baby, I was like- ‘no, this time, I’m going to do it.’ I got a workout videotape, put it in, I thought I’ll just start by doing a plank and that’s the last thought I had… I was like ‘conk’”.
Today, at 43 and with a thriving career — she stars in the upcoming film drama Sylvie’s Love, which has been acquired by Amazon — Ryan Michelle’s message to other women is to “go ask for help” if they think they too have slipped into postpartum depression: “It’s okay.” And also, not to beat themselves up if baby weight is tough to lose. “There is no such thing as a one size approach- a majority of us don’t fit into that certain ‘magazine mold’”.