A mother’s love’s a blessing, so the old Irish song goes. But there’s no such thing as a textbook pregnancy.
When a woman finds out she’s pregnant, no matter how prepared she is, the moment she sees that plus sign on her pregnancy test she’s buffeted by every emotion in the book; from joy and excitement through to dread and fear, and sometimes all in the same minute.
Behind all this lies the age-old question -- am I ready for this?
“Access Hollywood” host Nancy O’Dell’s answer to that question was a resounding yes. Famously tall and leggy, the statuesque blonde rivals her movie star interviewees in the sexiness quotient, maintaining a remarkable physique for a woman of 43.
When she discovered she was pregnant in 2006 she was overjoyed. Both she and her husband Keith Zubchevich had been trying for a baby for long time but her previous miscarriage, which she has never mentioned publicly until now, had made her wonder if she would even be able to.
O’Dell, a former beauty queen and now a seven time Emmy Award nominated broadcaster, has been with “Access Hollywood” since its 1996 premiere. Career aside, she always knew she wanted to have kids, and to top it off every celebrity she was covering for the daily entertainment show seemed to be pregnant or had just given birth, including Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears, Katie Holmes, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mariska Hartigay -- she could feel the pressure mounting.
Never one to pass up a challenge, O’Dell gave birth to her first child, daughter Ashby Grace on June 11, 2007.
But early into her pregnancy O’Dell (who admits always she reads the Irish Voice to prepare for her annual job as NBC’s New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade host) kept coming up against issues that no one had prepared her for.
At times she felt isolated and completely out of her depth, and she didn’t know where to turn for help, which is why she decided to write “Full of Life”, the pregnancy guide book for first time mothers that she wishes someone had given to her.
“I felt that there was such a need for “Full of Life” because I’ve read so many pregnancy books that are very scientific or medical, but I wanted to write something that was very entertaining and yet informative, with the emphasis on the latter,” O’Dell tells the Irish Voice.
“I wanted to write about the stuff that terrifies expectant mothers, the stuff that really isn’t terrifying once you know what’s going on. So many times I found myself terrified or scared or surprised when I didn’t need to be, because the things I was doing weren’t horrible for the baby or for me. But I didn’t know that. And I just kept asking why didn’t someone tell me that!”
Five tips that O’Dell includes in “Full of Life” include telling expectant mothers to pre-register at the hospital they plan to give birth at.
“I really had no idea you could do this! It’s just common sense. I mean, who wants to be signing forms in triplicate when you’re also going into labor and having contractions?
“Go ahead of time and all you’ll have to do when you show up is give them your name. No one thinks to tell you these things”
During her pregnancy O’Dell had to give up her hosting duties during for the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, but she vows to return.
“Are you kidding me? Those Irish firemen and policemen are so sweet to me and they flirt like crazy. I always feel like a million dollars after it, so you can be sure I plan to do it again.”
Meanwhile, in “Full of Life” O’Dell covers everything from preconception to the first week home with the baby, leaving nothing out. Sensible issues she discusses include what to put in the nursery (gauze and water, for example).
“I had stocked the place with hypoallergenic unscented wipes and then the nurse told me I couldn’t use them. A baby’s skin is much too sensitive in the first few weeks to use wipes after it’s used a diaper,” she offers.
Other interesting advice includes O’Dell’s warning to expectant mothers to avoid foot massages – they can actually put a woman into early labor if certain pressure points within the foot are stimulated.
Another timely tip is for pregnant women not to sleep on their backs but rather on their left sides because it increases circulation and decreases the swelling in the legs. It also decreases the possibility of getting the dreaded pregnancy leg cramps.
Says O’Dell, “That was another thing I didn’t know was coming! I’d wake up in the night with these painful leg cramps, and I’d wake up my husband and ask him to research if this was another part of pregnancy! I would violate our don’t ask, don’t tell pregnancy policy every night.”
On a more serious note, O’Dell reminds her readers that one in every four pregnancies results in a miscarriage, an extraordinarily high statistic.
“Nobody knows that the statistics are that high because even today no one talks about it. And when it happened to me in the past I thought, Oh my gosh, something’s wrong, I can’t get pregnant, I can’t keep it,” she says.
“But then my doctor told me that it’s a very common occurrence that actually means that your plumbing is working and that you can get pregnant. Although at the time I was in morning it was also comforting to know that it was part of nature and that there are so many things that go into getting pregnant.”
O'Dell is now married to Zubchevich, vice president of a technology company in California. The couple met when they exchanged glances at an airport check-in line in 2005; Zubchevich was divorced and the father of two sons.
O’Dell’s marriage to Miami-based doctor Richard O’Dell ended in divorce, but she retained the surname as a rising star in news and entertainment.
Being in the public eye every night, O’Dell had to think about hard about who to tell she was pregnant, and when.
“I’ll never forget when my co-host and friend Billy Bush casually leaned over when I was nine weeks pregnant and said, ‘I love my wife and I don’t want to be rude, but you appear a tad top heavy. Either you’ve upgraded or you’re pregnant.’ I was busted,” O’Dell recalls.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Billy, your microphone is on!’ Pretty much everyone knew I was pregnant. I just didn’t know they knew!”
O’Dell’s wardrobe stylists, Daniel and Nicole, see her naked as often as her husband does, she says.
“Why I thought they wouldn’t notice my ever-expanding belly I have no clue. I guess, for the first time ever in my Hollywood life, I actually hoped they thought I was just gaining weight.
“But when my pants wouldn’t button again, Daniel gave me a knowing look. I turned to him and said, ‘You think I’m pregnant too, don’t you?’ He looked me up and down and said, ‘Nanny-O, I know you’re pregnant but you feel free to tell me when you’re ready.’”
Since then O’Dell has become a pro at motherhood and easing the fears of her pregnant girlfriends. In “Full of Life” she’ll tell you how to get there too.
“Full of Life”, by Nancy O’Dell, Simon and Schuster $16.99