Danica McKellar Talks Pregnancy, Childbirth -- and Algebra
The math whiz and Wonder Years star has added a new role to her impressive résumé: mom
Do natural childbirth and the quadratic equation share a common denominator?
It just might be Danica McKellar, the former child actress who first stole hearts as Winnie Cooper on the late '80s hit show The Wonder Years before carving out a new niche as a math advocate for girls with three best-selling books: Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail; Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss; and Hot X: Algebra Exposed.
"During the toughest moments," McKellar tells WebMD of her 36-hour labor, "I kept thinking about what I tell my readers about their abilities in math, and it resonated with labor, too: You're more capable than you think you are."
Which is not to say McKellar didn't struggle, like many girls do as they tackle algebraic problems just as puberty hits, as she rode out one painful contraction after another. She faced moments where she wanted to quit. With the support of her doctor, her husband, her doula (birth coach), and the practice of self-hypnosis, she got through her long labor.
"My goal was to do natural childbirth," she says. "But I didn't know if it would [fully] go that way until the baby was actually born." McKellar gave birth to her son, Draco -- named for a constellation in the sky -- "on Labor Day," she says, in a Los Angeles-area hospital under the supervision of a doctor, who happily worked with her doula. "I wanted Western medicine close…I wanted to be prepared, just in case."
McKellar's reward, she says, for resisting an epidural (pain medication delivered into a space in the lower back below the spinal cord) was that she was alert and mobile enough to "pull out Draco myself." When her baby was ready, her doctor invited her to sit up and "come and get him!" Beaming, she relates, "It was one of the most amazing moments of my life."
McKellar, 36, says she's a firm believer that "every woman has an inner sense that guides her" when it comes to pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding, and "that we should never judge another woman's choices." She says that a strict approach to nutrition before and after birth, the goal of natural labor, and exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months was right for her.