Nancy O'Dell, co-anchor of NBC's Access Hollywood, has had a busy year so far: Daughter Ashby (named after O'Dell's grandfather) turns 2 on June 11; O'Dell was scheduled to compete on Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) (and had to drop out due to a knee injury); and in April her first book - Full of Life: Mom to Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Pregnant (Simon Spotlight Entertainment) comes out. She spoke with us one afternoon in March after taping Access.
Fit Pregnancy: First of all, how is your baby?
Nancy O'Dell: Ashby is doing so many things: She took her first step during her first birthday party, and she babbles constantly. She started talking at about 17 - 18 months and now you can't stop her. She's combining two and three words, and of course one of her favorite words is "No!"
FP: You obviously love being a mom....
O'Dell: I think it is just the best thing. I was at DWTS rehearsals so much until this past weekend — I'd tape Access, then we rehearsed 5 to 6 hours every day (I think I was the only person with a regular job) — I just said, "OK, I am spending the whole weekend with Ashby." And we had the best time. Being away from her so much was the hardest part.
FP: You are very open, giving your viewers tremendous access to your life, your wedding and pregnancy, your experience with DWTS. Why?
O'Dell: Well, for one thing, my boss really likes me to...but seriously, the wedding was such a happy period in my life. I finally found the man of my dreams. [O'Dell is married to tech executive Keith Zubchevich.] He is just the most wonderful man in the world. I thought, why not share that?
As far as the pregnancy went, the viewers had to watch as I got bigger, so I couldn't really avoid talking about it. It was a funny time in Hollywood - everyone seemed to be pregnant, and I had had a miscarriage about nine months earlier. We were trying again, and the stress was so high. I remember hearing so many stories about other people's struggles and their miscarriages, I felt I had to get personal with the viewers.
I was worried how my boss would react; I needed a new wardrobe, couldn't travel the way we'd been doing. But it all worked out.
FP: How long did you take for maternity leave?
O'Dell: I remember Jan Curl telling me, "Don't feel like you have to come back so soon." So I took her advice and was off for a full three months. I just wanted to do everything for Ashby; I didn't want someone else doing it. The first day back at work, I cried, I missed her so much.
FP: Did you breastfeed?
O'Dell: Yes. I write about it in the book, and give what I think is an important piece of advice: While you are still pregnant, see a lactation consultant. I didn't think I had to. I thought you just put the baby on your breast, they suck and that was it. I never read how difficult it can be. I wish so badly someone had told me to learn before I gave birth — all the different holds, how latching on to the whole areola is crucial, and how to use the breast pump.
But I was bound and determined to nurse. When Ashby would latch on (to just the nipple!) and I was screaming, I found that the football hold helped ease the pain some. And I was constantly putting gel packs on my breasts.
No one thinks to tell you these things, they just want to talk about all the great stuff and forget the other. None of the books I read really addressed that.
FP: And is that why you wanted to write your book?
O'Dell: That is why. I'm the kind of person who takes notes constantly — it's the journalist in me. And it's always fun to look back, and it will be for Ashby, too, when she's older and when she's pregnant. I filled notebook after notebook with interesting, embarrassing, surprising stuff.
For instance, I didn't know that your breasts might leak colostrum before you give birth. I was taping a broadcast and the cameraman starting zooming in closer to my face...because two dime-sized spots were forming on the front of my blouse. If I had known, I would've worn breast pads.
So, I realized there really is a need for a book like this. A friend threw me a shower and one of the games was to tell me what to expect during the delivery or the first week home. I'm reading what they wrote and going, "What? You can poop on the delivery table?"
I woke up one day with all these red spots on my chest, freaked out, saw my doctor and he said, "Oh, it's just that you have so much blood circulating, you are seeing the ends of your blood vessels through your skin." And leg cramps! No one told me about leg cramps until after I had woken up with them in the middle of the night. My mom told me what to do.
FP: Where did you get your material?
O'Dell: Mostly from my own experience. I write about what happened to me, and what I learned. Here's another example: I had no idea that sensitive, hard nipples can be the first sign of pregnancy. I was interviewing Patrick Dempsey one day, and my breasts seemed to be having this extreme reaction to McDreamy, but it turns out I was pregnant. We were trying, so it was top of mind, but I didn't know.