Actress Amber Stevens West is pregnant with her second child and dishing on everything from the difference between her pregnancies (hint: regular napping) to how Covid-19 has shaped her wellness routine (hint: none). Check out our interview below, where she’s sharing all the details behind growing her family and how she’s savoring the moment and maintaining her presence, even in the chaos of it all.
How are you feeling?
Mostly I’m really tired. This has been a very different pregnancy for me. During my first pregnancy, I barely felt pregnant, maybe just nauseous in the beginning. But this time, I haven’t exercised since I was like 17 weeks. I’m so tired all the time. I think it’s also having a toddler. Just generally, I feel like an old woman! I feel like I cannot wait to have my body back and to not have a person inside of it. But otherwise, I’m very grateful and excited and happy.
Outside of that, how is this pregnancy different from your first one?
It’s hard to even remember what my first pregnancy was like in comparison. It just feels different. The first time I was working through the whole pregnancy. We were filming and I was actively hiding my belly every week on a sitcom. It was so full of energy, every week. They’d be like, you need to sit down and I was fine and working up to the day I delivered. I felt great. This time around, I literally nap everyday for at least one hour while my daughter naps. My husband is a saint and lets me sleep in most mornings, so I’m waking up more naturally as opposed to when a child is waking up, but I’m still so tired! Most of this pregnancy, I’ve been home. I’m not working right now. I got pregnant while filming Run The World but only during the last three or four weeks. So it was super early and I spent the rest of my time hanging at home with my family, doing press for the show over Zoom. It worked out perfectly because I’ve been tired. With Covid-19, I’ve also gotten to take it easier rather than the way world used to be with lots of events and things to go out to. The way I feel, coupled with the responsibilities I have are all aligned.
Do you have a “Birth Plan?”
After my first pregnancy, I learned you can’t have plans. My first delivery was not at all according to plan. I had a midwife, a doula and was at home for a long time before moving to a birthing center. I thought I was going to give birth in a tub and I spent 12 hours at the birthing center in active labor. After two full nights of no sleep, I was exhausted and hadn’t dilated at all. I was stuck at six centimeters for two days so I surrendered. I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed a nap and an epidural! So I was transferred to a hospital. I got the nap and medication and she came out like a breeze. I needed that rest and for my body to relax. So I learned you can’t have a plan. But this time for my second, I’m going straight to a hospital and not a birthing center. I like my doctor a lot, so fingers crossed the second time around is easier than my first one.
What’s been your path to pregnancy?
We’ve been lucky that getting pregnant has been a simple task for us. Both have been planned pregnancies. My husband and I have been together for many, many years. We felt like we had done everything and it was time to start a family. So with my first, actually, it took three to four months to get pregnant and it really came down to this advice, which I give my friends. Figure out your ovulation cycle. Spend a few months tracking your ovulation. For me it helped to pee on those ovulation sticks. It told me I was ovulating now! So that’s how I got pregnant. I figured out which days I was most fertile as opposed to an app or calendar. So then I knew how my body operated for the second time around. We said alright, let’s try and I planned for it. Also, I was able to plan around my work. If we’re going to do a television show, how many months does it take to make a baby? How many months can I be pregnant and hide? Let’s do it here, this month. I got lucky and was pregnant on the first go around. I’ve been very blessed.
What about finding out you were pregnant?
It wasn’t super dramatic. I missed my period by a day. I didn’t give it much time, but it was my husband’s birthday and I went out and got a test. I pretended it was his birthday gift so I gave it to him the night before his birthday. It was right before we went to bed. I said, “I have something I want to give you” and I put it in a gift bag. He was shocked. He said, “How did that happen so fast?!” He was so excited. We told our daughter in the morning. She’s two-and-a-half so she didn’t quite get it at the time.
How she’s doing with it now?
She fully understands it now. As soon as my belly started to grow, she now 100% understands that she’s going to be a big sister. She talks about what to do with the baby all the time. She kisses my belly all the time. She’s not jealous at all, at least not yet.
How do you feel about transitioning from one to two?
I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect. I’m a little anxious about it. I’ve always known I wanted several kids, or at least more than one. I’m excited about what it will look like but I have no idea. It seems hard, but people do it. I’m also excited. Honestly, I want to have multiple kids for them, not even for me. I know how special it is to have a sibling. I’m excited to see their relationship develop for them. She needs someone to hang out with. I’m obsessed with my little sister, too. To have a sibling is special. I’m happy to give that to her.
How are you planning your return to work?
You just have to figure it out. I have a solid support system, which is kind of essential. My husband and I always had an agreement once we started a family. He’s also an actor. But we said we’d swap back and forth as much as we can. At this time, I’m the one doing a regular series so I’m the busiest. He’s done guest stars and movies but those don’t require as many weeks of work. When we did Run The World, he came to New York and was a full time dad and supported me and the family and hopefully I’ll be able to return the favor one of these days. I also have my parents around. My sister and husband and grandma and everyone helps with childcare. I lean really hard on everybody. I’m super grateful to have them. This is all free. I literally get free help. It’s also about having an open communication with my husband and making sure we’re both feeling fulfilled and heard and supported, and that we’re sharing duties of being parents and maintaining a house in an equitable way. So far so good! I’m also waiting to hear if the show is picked up. I’m confident we’ll be going back to New York – though I have not officially been told by anyone.
It’ll be interesting – having two kids and moving to New York and breastfeeding a newborn. My mom offered to come to New York with us. I guess I’ll be bringing a new baby to work or something, which I did with Ava. I have experience with that and it went pretty smoothly. I feel like the industry shifted a bit. They’re more understanding of what having a newborn looks like as a working mother – especially a breastfeeding one. They knew my breastfeeding schedule and they worked around it. They’d say, “We know Amber needs 20 minutes at 9:30am.” It worked out amazingly well. I’m hopeful that happens again. I know it will be fine. Our show is run by women – they fully get it.
Your parents – model Beverly Cunningham and radio host Shadoe Stevens – are pretty powerful in their own right. How do they influence your parenting style?
They very much do. I grew up in LA. My mom was a stay-at-home parent but before kids she was very active as a model. She had a big career and plenty going on in her life. She was very encouraging to us to go after what we want – same with my dad. They were both very present in my life at all times, but they also went after what they wanted. I do the same. They’ve always encouraged me to be an actor. They thought I should do it before I did. They also knew I wanted to be a parent and told me, yes you can do it all. I never had any doubt I couldn’t pull it off. I’m so grateful for their encouragement.
Their parenting style is the same as mine, though I wonder how it’ll shift as my kids age. They were on the stricter side. I was home by 10pm in high school, so my friends came over to my house. It was “Club 155” (our house number on our street). Kids would come and party at my house which meant sitting around on AOL. They gave me a fair amount of freedom and encouragement to do what I wanted, but with firm boundaries. Raising kids in LA freaks people out who weren’t raised here, but it’s all I know. I think it’s important to expose kids to other ways of life and people and teach them how to operate within that world. You can’t shelter people or else they’ll go nuts.
Any crazy cravings?
I’ve had so much ice cream. It’s so typical. During my first pregnancy, I ate a lot of ramen. I wanted hot noodles all the time. This time around, all I want is deli sandwiches. Some people are scared to eat that, but if it’s good meat, I think it’s fine. I’ve had a lot of sandwich cravings and pints of ice cream. Milk and Cookies from Ben and Jerry’s and Van Leeuwen makes the best vanilla. I also like Craig’s Vegan Ice Cream that’s cashew-based. Their chocolate is really good.
Talk to us about self-care….
I do nothing. Do naps count? It’s the one thing that keeps me going. If I have my nap, I can function. I’ve been very lucky in that I’m not going anywhere, so I don’t need hair and makeup, and my skin’s been great. One crazy side effect of pregnancy for me is that all my body hair falls out, so I’m not even shaving. So that’s made me even lazier. I don’t do face-masks, I don’t exercise. I’m just too tired. So my hair doesn’t get washed. I’ve been the laziest lately. But I think self-care is whatever you need to do to put yourself first, and for me, it’s the nap.
Do you have one hope for your kids?
I hope they feel seen and heard. I hope, as a parent, I create an environment where they feel understood for whatever and whoever they are, and what they’re feeling. I hope I can tune in and tap into that where they need me.
Any advice you’d want to share?
Just be present. Check in with yourself. Make sure you’re doing what you need to do to feel grounded as a parent and individual. Your kid grows so fast, so soak it up as much as possible. Being present is something I try and practice everyday. I had a bracelet made when my daughter was born that reads Be Present because I could feel her slipping away. They change every moment.