An ER doctor's real-life pregnancy
While actress Ming-Na was expecting, Dr. Jing-Mei “Deb” Chen, the character she plays on TV’s ER, was living through her own pregnancy drama. Ming-Na, 33, has co-starred in TV sitcoms and several films, including The Joy Luck Club, and provided the voice for Disney’s Mulan. She is married to actor/
producer Eric Michael Zee. We caught up with Ming-Na when daughter Michaela was 2 months old.
Fit Pregnancy: How are you doing with the working-mom balancing act: nighttime baby feedings and early-morning TV shoots?
Ming-Na: Mostly I’ve had to adjust to getting all that baby gear together. If I have a 5:30 a.m. call, I put all the stuff in the car the night before. In the morning, I just wrap her up, strap her in the car seat and go. But all day today, I’ve been interviewing nannies. It’s so nerve-racking, trusting your baby to somebody else. I think we’ve found somebody good, but for the first few weeks, we’re going to have someone with the two of them all the time.
FP: You’re going to stalk the nanny?
MN: Kind of. Maybe I should have the crew on the show install a few microphones around the house and in the dressing room. Only kidding. I’m really lucky that I have a job that lets me bring my daughter. My first day back, I hated being away from her even for the three or four hours I was on the set. I think that’s when my hormones kicked in, not during the pregnancy.
FP: This is your first baby. Was your pregnancy easy or hard?
MN: Well, I did break down sobbing one time. Two mourning doves built a nest under our porch roof, and I was so excited, seeing the two eggs in the nest.
FP: You bonded with the mommy bird.
MN: I did. But then this terrible thing happened. I came out one morning and the nest had blown off its ledge, and the two eggs were there on the porch, broken. I ran to my husband saying, “The eggs broke! The eggs broke!” But I was crying so hard that he couldn’t understand a thing I said.
FP: Speaking of emotions, your pregnancy was written into the ER scripts.
MN: Yeah. It was a little surreal, especially since Dr. Chen’s pregnancy was such an unhappy one and mine was so happy. Her family was extremely judgmental, and mine was so supportive. It was strange to switch between the two.
FP: What was the hardest moment?
MN: When my character gives up her baby for adoption. I had to film those scenes while I was still nine months pregnant ...
FP: You’re kidding ...
MN: No, and when I rehearsed the scene, I was just sobbing and sobbing. Noah [actor Noah Wyle, who plays Dr. Carter] would be like, “Ming. Save it for the cameras!” And I kept saying, “I’m not acting!” But it was good that I got the emotion out in rehearsal. If you sob uncontrollably on camera, somehow it doesn’t look real.
FP: So, are you having any trouble getting back into shape, post delivery?
MN: Not really. I just eat healthfully and exercise, and that seems to do it.
FP: What do you do for exercise?
MN: When I was pregnant, I did yoga and used the big exercise ball, which completely supports your pregnant body. It stretches your back and sides and loosens up all the muscles in your shoulders and back. It helped me so, so much, but in a really gentle way.
FP: And now that you’ve had Michaela?
MN: I work out with my baby on my belly. I do sit-ups, pelvic tilts and arm lifts. My goal is to be able to zip up my Earl Jeans again.
FP: By the way, was this a planned pregnancy?
MN: Actually, it wasn’t; be careful what you think about. That was our problem: We were talking about when we might plan to have a baby ...
FP: ... and the universe heard you.
MN: Yep. But it worked out. I was blown away by everything, the miracle of DNA coding, all that stuff. Of course, near the end, I felt like a pod.
FP: Um ... a pod?
MN: I gained 40 pounds and had this roly-poly body. But you know what was great, especially for an actress? I didn’t have to worry about my body anymore. When I went to the Emmys, I wore a tight, sequined dress and didn’t have to suck in my gut. It was like, “Here it is! This is how I’m supposed to look.”
FP: I am a goddess ...
MN: Exactly. — Celeste Fremon