Interview: Kelly Rowland Talks New Book ‘Whoa, Baby!’, Finding Guidance During Pregnancy, & Motherhood

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Kelly Rowland is no stranger to hard work nor success. The Grammy-award winning singer is one-third of one the best selling girl groups of all time, a successful solo artist in her own right and an actress. She’s also no stranger to helping others on their path, serving as a judge on X Factor UK & USA and now as a coach on The Voice Australia. However, the new mother is ready to add the title of author to her resume with a new book: ‘Whoa, Baby!: A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened)’, which recently dropped this month. Saint Heron sat down with Kelly to discuss her inspiration for the book, her experience as a new mom and what she hopes to bring to the conversation.

Judnick Mayard: How did you come about writing the book? Is writing a book something you always wanted to do or is this something that kind of came about as you were experiencing motherhood and maternity?

Kelly: I read a quote a while back from Toni Morrison that said, “If there’s a book that you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I hadn’t had a moment like that in my life where I wanted to write a book, but after I had my son I remember having all of these different questions for my OB/GYN. And basically it came about when she said, “so many moms ask questions about what happens to them after they have their baby and like what happens to them as moms; nothing about the baby.” Because there’s so much literature about babies and what happens to babies — baby this and baby that — but there was nothing about the mother. I was just so disappointed, so I thought back to that quote and I said, “This is the book to write.” I started just writing out all of these different things that were happening to me, talking to different moms about what was happening to them, and we were all on the same wavelength. I encompassed all that and put it in a book. I wanted to have a specialist involved, like my OB/GYN, a physical therapist, a psychotherapist, a trainer, and a stylist because shoot, I cared about the way I looked after I had my son too! I wanted to still be fly. I just made sure that the book was everything I wanted to read. All the questions that were being asked in my head and all of the other moms, in their heads; I wanted all those questions to be answered in this book and that’s how it came about.

Were you inspired through your research or did your focus come mainly from yourself and your personal conversations with doctors?

No it was more. It was conversations and questions with other moms as well as myself. And it was so funny because I had a girlfriend who just had a baby six months before me, a girlfriend who had a baby right after me, and a girlfriend who had a baby ten months after me. So, I was really able to get different perspectives. It’s so funny because I saw one comment that said, “It’s so funny how all these celebrities think they know so much after they have a baby.” I’ve never said I know so much, but that’s why I did have specialists involved and asked other mothers so it wouldn’t be self-absorbed.

I think that’s something for people to be mindful of: motherhood is universal. You don’t have to be a celebrity to be a mom. You don’t have to be a mom to be a celebrity.

I completely agree! We all go through the same stuff, and I feel like it’s also what makes you human. People always put celebrities on this pedestal, and it’s not that situation. We’re all very much so just mothers at the end of the day. And we’ve all gone through the same thing.

I know this book has helped you connect with other mothers, but how has this process connected you to your family? Do you feel a stronger presence to yourself, to your child and your husband?

Oh my God! I believe in energy, and I remember after I had Titan, I really needed my support system. My husband was there, my family was there like crazy, and I just remember feeling overwhelmingly blessed to have such a great support system. But I always wanted to be in tune with my son. I remember meditating, preparing myself to be ready when he came. I worked with a doula, who I bring up in the book, and she was asking me all of these different things that I wanted for my son. My friend, who’s also a therapist, was asking me what kind of mother I wanted to be; so it was just having these different talks. Whether it was pillow talk with my husband on the kind of parents that we wanted to be and being able to have these moments with Titan where we’re constantly communicating with him, even though he’s just cooing at us. That line of communication to me is the most important. I love motherhood, and I have my own family now. That’s something that I wear with so much pride.

You speak of your support system and seeking guidance during maternity. Did you find that more of the tall tales of motherhood were true or did you learn through experience that some things just don’t happen the way they claim?

For me, everything that everybody said would happen, happened. I would pray that the one thing wouldn’t happen and I was like, “This is some bull.” Literally what everybody said would happen, happened. From my stomach being as black as charcoal and me thinking, “Well is this going to go back to being my skin color or am I going to look like this forever?” Or those moments where I’d say, “Okay we goin’ need something to lift these girls up,” talking about my boobs. There were so many different things that everybody said, and I was like “I’m not going to think like that, I’m going to be positive.” Nope, it happened. Sorry for you! What happens after you have a baby, that’s just a part of it.

I think the best part of it, was that some people who would tell me, “Everyone is going to have an opinion about how you should do this with the baby and that with the baby.” I was so blessed to have a circle of people who let me navigate it and find it on my own. That was such a blessing, but I hear horror stories from moms every other day – like, “Oh my gosh, if my mother or my mother-in-law or my sister or my aunt, if they don’t shut up.” I hear those stories too, but I do think that’s it’s fair when people who are surrounding you let you navigate it on your own. They can help you of course, I think that it’s important they do. But the same way that they had to figure it out, you have to figure it out too.

That is such a strong element of maternity. People try to provide you with all of the things you didn’t know, but at the end of the day, you’re going to have to figure it out for yourself because your life is different. Going off life and style, I wanted to ask you about where your inspiration came from for the cover art. It’s very art-pop and bright. It feels much lighter and fun than most mom books.

You pretty much hit the nail on the head! I really wanted it to encompass all of those things. I love art. You know, it’s so funny I actually just had this conversation with a friend of mine. He said, “No one knows that about you!” I love collecting art and he told me, “Put that in everything you do, it’s a part of you,” so I said okay! One of the ways I wanted to start doing that was with this book. I love Roy Lichenstein – love love! I didn’t want the book to feel like this dowdy, boring cover. I wanted it to feel alive because I feel like motherhood is already so much. Every time a mom picks up this book, I want them to find a smile somewhere. You just had a baby; you just brought life into this world. That’s a blessing from God.

Is that how you wanted it to read to your audience? Did you really want to make sure it was bright and fashionable and fun or more informative and insightful?

Mostly I just wanted to make sure the book had people in there who knew what they were talking about technically. I know I can give my opinion and what happened with me and with a lot of moms, but I just wanted to have specialists in there to elaborate on things that I couldn’t. Things that they went to school for, things that I would trust them for because I remember going to this chat once and this one mom was talking about some recipe for something and I thought, “These women have got to stop,” because it was just some crazy menu or recipe, not saying she was crazy, but it was just weird. I said to myself, “We shouldn’t tell each other to do that. We have to support each other,” you know? But in doing that, I like to have people know what they’re talking about. They went to school for it, and you don’t have to go to school to know, but all of the technical information – I did want to have people involved.

The great thing about your book is that there’s a huge conversation happening right now about mothers and their experiences after the baby, that’s often been neglected. You found a book that hadn’t been written yet and you wrote it, so what kind of spark are you hoping to add to the conversation and what do you want people to feel after they’ve read it?

I want them to feel like they’re not on their own. I want them to feel in control. There’s something about having the knowledge with you. I don’t know if I said this earlier, but I remember reading all of these books, What to Expect When Expecting and Jennie McCarthy’s Belly Laughs, and I felt like I was prepared while I was pregnant. I want moms to feel like that with this book. I’d love for them to be able to quote it like, “You know in Chapter 6, such and such said such and such,” but I do think that it does spark conversation and I think that women already have enough things going on around us, some things we don’t have control over. If there’s ever a moment where we can feel like, “Okay I’ve got this,” or we can uplift each other or I can tell this mom about this or that, we should be able to reach out and support each other if we see those things because I do talk about postpartum depression in this book and it didn’t happen to me. But I would go into different mom groups and see different moms talking and say to myself, “Well, she seems really sad today. Should I ask her what’s going on?” Of course I should ask her what’s going on! I remember when I finally did and the mom completely opened up to me and she needed to talk. So, I want to open up the conversation, and I want it to be a place where there’s no shame. There’s been so much shame put on different things and different moms about our sexuality. I just feel like at this point, it’s a moment for moms to communicate, like we’re really all on one accord.

So you’re creating a safe space. I think the concern becomes so much about the child, but the attachment doesn’t dissolve because they are born. You are still the protector and creator of this being. You deserve some attention too.

There’s so much pressure that you just want the baby to be okay, but you have to be okay at the end of the day too. It’s so funny, I was so brutally honest with a girlfriend of mine, LaLa. I remember I said, “La, I just don’t want to fuck up.” And she just laughed she said, “You won’t. You’re going to be a great mom.” And I said, “Yeah that sounds good, but this is all new. This is a new life and I don’t know what kind of mother I’ll be, you know what I mean? I have my hopes and desires and wishes on what kind of mother I hope to be, but how do I get there?” It’s a new life and you don’t know the type of mother you’ll be, and it opens up all of these lines of communication to discover motherhood on your own terms.

Purchase your copy of Kelly Rowland’s Whoa, Baby!: A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened) here!

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