Mother Muse Cover Story
Exclusive interview with actress Selma Blair
If you could describe yourself in one sentence.
I am hyper vigilant and sincere and so different than I was before I had my son.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was filled with the company of my three sisters, Marie, Katherine and Lizzie. Lizzie and I were and are incredibly bonded, but I was a very lonely little kid. I grew up in Michigan and spent most of my time playing alone in the basement with old and intriguing toys. Summer nights was spent playing capture the flag with Lizzie and a few neighbors with trips to the dairy queen with mom and dad. I always chose vanilla in a wafer cone.
I was serious and careful and very obedient. But I was a bit of a hellion in Kindergarten. I once made my entire kindergarten class search for a tiny gold ball-training earring that I claimed had been lost in the classroom. I had lied, knowing it came off when I was trying on a turtleneck the week before in my mother’s room. I still cringe that I did that. I pulled the same stunt at a birthday party that same year, ruining the celebration for the dear mom who spent half the time searching for this phantom earring. I am so sorry.
Finally, in high school, I had the privilege of attending Cranbrook Kingswood, the Saarinen designed private school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and I was forever changed. What a place of beauty. I made my forever friends there. Kelly, Sue and Frances. They all had kids before me. I was late to the party. My parents both worked as lawyers, my mom a magistrate. I had a lot of time alone, but my favorite memories are our times on gorgeous vacations to Puerto Rico and Aruba and Sanibel Island. I lived for those trips.
Tell us about your life before motherhood.
My life before motherhood was easy. I had nobody to answer to and could travel and work freely. I loved going on Outward Bound expeditions, but also relished in my trips to Paris and Rome and London. I rode my horse by 6am and volunteered at the Lange foundation. Decorated houses and smoked too many cigarettes. Not much of an overachiever, I let time go by while never feeling at home in the world.
Being a single mother and having a son, what are your most challenges?
Being a single mother, the biggest struggles for the first few years of Arthurs life. Exhausted from an intense and problematic and long labor, I couldn’t recover and didn’t know whom to turn to. I hired a nanny, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable without my baby. I nursed for years and was drained. I sleep trained Arthur for weeks and weeks but he wouldn’t take to it. Defiant since induced labor, he was. I remember walking up to two mothers in the parking lot of Bristol farms while I was out on a walk with Arthur in his sling. They were talking and laughing with their little ones in strollers. Bleary eyed from fatigue and depression, I cried to them…”How do you do this? How will it be better?” They looked at me blankly. No exchange.
I walked away feeling so stupid and alone and continued feeling that way for four years. I went back to work fulltime at 6 months after birth and just barely could manage. Arthur nursed all night and I don’t think I was recovering. Just more and more depleted. I had one friend who really tried to be there. She cooked for me every Sunday night and always was there for support but I didn’t even know how to ask. I was with my beloved son every minute when not at work, and counted every minute as special, but I was deeply depressed.
When Arthur started going to his dad’s, I was grateful he would have the love and support of two parents but I had a hard time without him. I folded his clothes and couldn’t sleep at night. It took years to get a handle on what felt like loss. Just loss. Now, I am able to see it as much needed time for me. But, Lord, it was a dark time in so many ways, those first years. I had little support, as I had no energy to reach out, and I was severely malnourished. I learned so much in recovering from postpartum depression and sharing Arthur with his father. And I found the help of a doctor to get me back on track with supplements and the correct foods and finding ways to get sleep.
What would be your words of advice for the single mother that is feeling overwhelmed.
To any single mother who is struggling, my heart goes out. It will get better. Let go of the feeling of loss when your child leaves to go to the other parent, there isn’t much choice in the matter anyway and a healthy relationship with cooperative parents is the best you could hope for. If you are doing it on your own, and are totally overwhelmed, find a way to meditate and get your nutrition in. I found out I had genetic mutations from doing 23 and me, and treating those health challenges made all the difference. In that way of knowing my body, I could properly heal from the stress and depletion. I ask you to tell a friend you are overwhelmed. Let a friend watch your child for a couple hours so you can sleep if childcare isn’t an option. Remember this too shall pass. I am sorry this is hard. It really can be, and you are not alone.