The actor, who welcomed twins via gestational surrogate, tells Scary Mommy she felt “immense guilt” that she wasn’t able to carry her own children.
Earlier this year, Jamie Chung revealed that, despite using a gestational surrogate to welcome her twin sons in October, she suffered from postpartum depression following their arrival. Many people were quick to judge, insisting that a non-birth parent couldn’t possibly experience the post-delivery hormonal blues.
But motherhood is tough no matter how you get there. And Chung is proud to preach that fact.
During a Zoom interview with Scary Mommy about her partnership with Duracell’s “Power Safely Check” campaign, the 39-year-old Lovecraft Country star opened up about the “immense guilt” she felt, both for not being able to carry her children and for experiencing postpartum depression despite that fact.
“To anyone who chooses to have an addition to their current family, no matter what route they take, they still take on this massive responsibility of raising another human being,” Chung said, calling motherhood “the hardest job.”
“As much planning and preparation as you do, not only with your relationship or things you need to do physically to get ready for a child, you just don’t know how it’s going to go. Half the time, maybe less, it is all clouds and hearts, and it’s perfect. And then there are other times when it’s hard. It’s depressingly, anxiety-filled difficult times,” the Real World alum added. “And I think it’s OK to ask for the support and to seek the help and be open and not have to be ashamed.”
Postpartum depression, part of a cluster of conditions experts now call perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, is commonly thought to be caused by the precipitous drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs in someone’s body after birth. But as Elizabeth Murphy Fitelson, a psychiatrist at Columbia-Presbyterian who specializes in maternal mental health, previously told Scary Mommy, there are many other triggers for new parents — including sleep deprivation, anxiety, and stress.
Chung, who is married to fellow actor Bryan Greenberg, remembers filling out a postpartum form following the premature birth of her twins — checking “yes” to question after question.
“‘I’m not very happy, no. I do not look forward to tomorrow; I dread it. This is the hardest thing. I’m not getting much sleep. Everything’s a little hazy,’” Chung said she wrote down on her doctor’s sheet. “I wouldn’t jeopardize the safety of my own kids, but yeah, I was not happy.”
The new mom said a COVID-19 scare led to her sons' early arrival and stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which contributed to an emotional start to motherhood. Watching her "fragile" babies struggle to breathe during their first few moments of life was "heartbreaking."
"At the time, there wasn't a lot of information about whether or not pregnant women should get COVID-19 shots — we highly encouraged it, but there's a third party involved, and you have to respect everyone's wishes. And unfortunately [our surrogate] got COVID, and it was intense," Chung shared. "Luckily, everyone is OK now, but it was a rollercoaster. And having to visit and go into the NICU for two weeks was really scary. It was a really tough time."
Nowadays, Chung is in "a sweet spot" and enjoying eight-month milestones as her boys are eager to crawl, walk, and get into all sorts of trouble around the house. She has had to take on a larger parenting load as Greenberg filmed his upcoming directorial debut, Junction, over the last two months, but Chung jokes she "killed it" as a single mom.
"We enlisted a lot of family to come in, but there were two solid weeks that I was by myself," she said, a smile on her face.
"It was really hard. I was exhausted, and I didn't get to do anything for myself, but I did it," Chung continued, calling the feat a "Hey babe, remember when I spent two months by myself with the kids? I think I'm going to go on a solo vacation" sort of situation.
For now, Chung is slowing down on the work front and plans to be picky when it comes to what roles or projects she takes on. (“Is it worth schlepping the whole family across the country or to a different country?”)
“Every day is a new learning experience,” she says. “As things get comfortable, kids change again, and honestly, you just have to roll with the punches and keep them safe and alive and have them thrive. There’s so much information thrown at you and so many hazards you don’t realize are there; the most you can do is be as prepared as you possibly can.”