Shawn Johnson is an Olympic gold medalist and one of the best-known gymnasts of our time. But all of the training in the world couldn’t have prepared the mom of 3-month-old Drew Hazel East, with husband Andrew East, for parenthood.
When asked about the challenges of motherhood that she faced after leaving the hospital a few short months ago, the 28-year-old tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she found “literally everything, every single thing,” to be a new and challenging experience.
“I feel like you find such a comfort at the hospital because you have the nurses, and if anything goes wrong or you have a question about anything, you have everybody there to take care of you and to hold your hand when you’re nervous,” Johnson says. “So when we went home, I mean, the first night realizing we didn’t have a nurse to come check on the baby every hour to make sure she’s good. Like we had to do that ourselves...It was everything. And yet, nobody prepares you for that.”
That unpreparedness became evident, and even more life-changing when Johnson started to struggle with breastfeeding her baby just one week into being home. “My daughter latched in the hospital and breastfed beautifully and I thought I was gonna be a breastfeeding mama forever,” she explains. “And then we got her home a week later and she just had a sit-in and didn’t wanna breastfeed ever again.”
She took to her community on social media to start asking questions about breast pumping and bottle feeding, which eventually turned into inquiries about formula when she realized her supply wasn’t enough. While she was met with helpful suggestions — many which led to her current partnership with Enfamil — Johnson also faced negativity from mom-shamers.
“We all start out reading negative comments and taking it so personally. So I’ve had to kind of build-up that strength and that thick skin over time,” she says of the unsolicited comments on her social media feeds. “I try to just take the perspective of: Wow, that made me feel a certain way so that means moms out there are feeling this as well. And if it’s a big enough topic or enough people are saying it, I’ll try to address it in a lighthearted way.”
Earlier this month, the new mom responded to some of that criticism when people began to shame her for a video where she showed off Drew’s “first flip.”
When it comes to sharing the burden of that criticism with her husband, Johnson says it’s “really, really hard.”
“I feel like moms, in general, have this innate feeling that it is our responsibility. And even though it’s a parenting duo, at the end of the day you just feel this mom guilt that feels heavier than parenting guilt,” she explains. “It’s just this weird pressure we put on ourselves to make sure that every decision that’s made for your child is right. And so, I think that people do direct it to the moms unfairly because they feel like, ‘Oh it’s the mom’s responsibility to make sure everything is going smooth, micro-manage every part of their life.’”
She adds: “If I’m feeling guilty or like I’ve done something wrong, that means that moms are as well.”
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