Actress Athena Reich has always wanted to be a mother. “Ever since I was a little girl,” Reich said. “it seemed like I would be missing out on a dimension of life if I didn’t have kids.” Watch all of season one of Athena’s “Baby Steps” on GOMag.com.
But Athena Reich wasn’t meeting Ms. Right, and she felt that the search for love was slowing down her family-building process. So she took matters into her own hands and opted to become a single parent.
“There are so many great things about being a single parent,” Reich said, “But there are challenges as well. Carrying the financial burden on my own is intense. The threat of burnout is more imminent. But I get to make all the decisions. For example, when I recently decided to move from New York to Toronto, I just did it. I didn’t have to negotiate with anyone else. There is a beautiful freedom in that. And, although being a single parent is more work, I get all of the love.”
The process of getting pregnant brought on more obstacles than she anticipated. Reich went through seven IUI’s and four rounds of IVF, before finally conceiving via egg donation.
“As a lesbian, I always knew there would be some type of reproductive technology involved in getting pregnant,” Reich continued, “so although it was difficult for me to give up the dream of using my own genetics to reproduce, it may have been easier for me than your average straight couple who never imagined going outside their gene pool to conceive.”
Through the use of an egg donor, Reich was able to get pregnant and her dreams of becoming a mother came true via cesarean section. “As they wheeled me to the operating room, I experienced a joy I hadn’t felt in years,” Reich wrote on The Mindful Cesarean. “The pain from my infertility journey vanished. The darkness from the past 24 hours disappeared. It was all going to be over in 15 minutes, the most important chapter of my life was about to begin.”
Being public about the struggled of being a single-parent.
Since the birth of her son Phoenix, Reich has begun documenting moments of motherhood in her webseries “Baby Steps”, featured on GO TV. With an honestly you rarely get to see, Reich portrays the difficult and the hilarious in a way that is also helpful. Episodes such as “Flying with a Baby” and “What to do a with a Baby All Day” show Reich’s journey in real time. The struggle is real but she’s living her lifelong dream – documenting it along the way so other queer moms can join in the conversation about caring for tots.
However, being in front of the camera is nothing new for this award winning actress, singer/songwriter, and internationally acclaimed Lady Gaga Impersonator.
Being a working mom isn’t easy.
How does she balance being a performer with motherhood? “Sometimes you feel guilty that you can’t be that idyllic ‘stay-at-home-mom’. But when I pick up my son after an audition or performance I have a renewed ‘joie to vivre’ that is infectious. I see my son enjoying that energy and I know he is benefiting from being raised by an inspired and hard working mom. As a single parent, we spend a lot of time one-on-one, so our bond is really something special.”
Reich’s journey to parenthood is also documented in the award winning film “Vegas Baby”, airing on PBS tonight, June 27. “Vegas Baby” follows 3 families trying to conceive through IVF. Reich’s journey as the single, quirky, Gaga-impersonating lesbian adds humor and color to a deeply provocative film.
No more shame around infertility.
“People have a lot of misconceptions about IVF and the people who undergo procedures to have a baby. I heard everything, from ‘Why don’t you just go to a bar and let a guy knock you up?’, to ‘Just adopt’ to ‘Just relax and it’ll happen for you.’ It’s all much more complex than that.” Reich explained about the importance of the film, “I wanted to transform my painful experiences into something that could help break the silence. Amanda Micheli, the director of “Vegas Baby,” was going through IVF herself as she was making the film. I knew they would do the story justice.”
Reich has come out about many things in her life – and coming out about her struggle with infertility was a difficult process. Since there is so much societal shame tied to not being able to bear children, Reich hopes that “Vegas Baby” will help shine a light on this issue to change the narrative.
“People are constantly approaching me to tell me how moved they are by my story, and grateful that I have been so open about it. These stories need to be shared so it can be normalized, ” Reich told GO. “They confide in me that they haven’t told a soul. They seek advice, want to know which clinic I went to, and how I came to the decision to use an egg donor.”
The journey to find love may not have been easy, but Reich is glad that her pain can empower others to find the same strength she has.
“I finally found love,” Reich said, “and it’s just amazing. For me, being a mom brings endless meaning and joy to my life.”
“Baby Steps” is available now on GO TV. For those of you in Toronto, check out Athena’s comedy “LADY GAGA: #ARTBIRTH”. Athena portrays a very pregnant Gaga and performs a live on stage ‘art-birth’, at the Berkeley Street Theatre this summer.