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EXCLUSIVE: Olympian Shawn Johnson Gets Candid About Miscarriage And Pregnancy

Olympic gymnast, wife and mom-to-be Shawn Johnson is expecting her first child with husband Andrew East of The Washington Redskins. While she has had many victories in her professional career as a Gold and Silver medalist in gymnastics as well as being a champion on ‘Dancing With The Stars’, Johnson has been transparent about the not so perfect struggles of pregnancy as well. Before this current pregnancy, Johnson endured a miscarriage and she made the very deliberate decision to share this private moment in her life publicly.

Many women carry guilt and shame surrounding: miscarriages, pregnancy and postpartum as women and first time mothers and Johnson believes that in a world where everyone wants to present the perfect picture, the perfect story, and the perfect life that it is equally as important to show the hard moments in life too. Johnson felt that it was important for her to follow her instincts when sharing her journey through pregnancy, because she believes that it’s crucial to surround yourself with family and a community that is supportive and nurturing.

In an exclusive interview with Moms.com, Johnson shares that “talking with other women and moms and hearing the stories of other women is empowering and that she drew strength from it.”

Many women and moms harbor shame and guilt about their pregnancies. In your opinion, how important is it for first time moms and women in general to be transparent about their struggles with pregnancy?

It’s very important to be transparent during pregnancy. Two years ago my husband and I got pregnant and we lost our first baby and I had a lot of shame. It's a very natural thing for moms to go through. You're carrying your child, and you feel like you have a responsibility to take care of them and if something happens, then you feel like it's almost your fault. When asked, I would just say I was fine, but it broke me for a while. Talking to other moms who have gone through it, and hearing their stories and how they dealt with it was empowering. To have a community of women who are like, “It's okay to feel this way. It's not your fault,” was valuable. You have to talk about it.

In what ways did your miscarriage change you spiritually and emotionally?

I have never really felt that kind of pain before, which I think can be a beautiful thing. I think that pain can be a beautiful thing when you learn and grow. It was the first time being pregnant, and we miscarried at 10 weeks. We were still pretty early on, but to feel the amount of love that I felt already for this child was crazy. I think it strengthened me. It strengthened me and my husband spiritually, you have so many questions when you lose a child and we had to apply our faith for strength.

You're very transparent about the uncomfortable moments of your pregnancy and life on social media. What’s the inspiration behind this choice and are you deliberate about sharing your life’s lessons?

I like this question! I tend to speak out, because I feel like we live in a society that is obsessed with perfection where we're not allowed to show weakness. We're not allowed to show vulnerability. We're not allowed to show the pain and suffering. Everyone tries to put on this front that everything's just always perfect. I feel like with everything that we've gone through, people will always comment on our picture and say, “Oh, I wish we had what you had. And it's kind of like, I want to show you everything we have truly have so that you can see that it's not all fun and games. It's not all butterflies and roses, but that it can be if you work through it. I see it as a learning experience for people and myself, because it strengthens me to hear the community kind of talk back and share their experiences as well.

How has your journey to motherhood strengthened your character?

My husband thinks I've changed for the better. He said, I just seem more confident in my beliefs and how I make decisions. I feel like after the miscarriage, I was kind of wishy washy on what I believed for a moment. I asked myself, “Was it my fault? Was it this or was it that?” This time around I'm more like, “This is my baby and we’re going to get through it.” I just feel stronger.

What would you say to women who have experienced trauma in childbirth, experienced miscarriages or who are trying to get pregnant?I feel like as women, it’s our defense mechanism to just say, “No, I don't need that. I’m okay.” I remember right after miscarrying, I just wanted to do anything to avoid that pain. Again. I feel like it's natural, it's human. I went through a roller coaster of emotions like, “Do I want to have kids?” “Do I want to try again?” “Am I ready?” I feel like it's really natural, but some of the greatest joy I think comes from the worst pain. I would say to these women, you just can't give up hope.

In addition to the forthcoming baby, do you have any projects on the horizon that you would like to share about?My husband and I, along with two of our best friends are actually opening a coffee shop in Nashville which we're all really excited about. It's been something we've wanted to do for a while. And then we're also coming out with a merchandise line at the same time. So, as if a baby wasn't enough chaos for us. We had to throw other stuff in there!

Do you have any current regimines that you currently indulge in as you prepare for the baby?

I’m just trying to get as much rest as possible! I’m really just resting and trying to enjoy this pregnancy and enjoy the moment!

At this stage in her pregnancy, Johnson has chosen to partner with Philips Avent, because she identifies with their parenting philosophy of trusting your “momtuition”, and she even shared some of her favorite registry items from the brand at a recent event in New York City in partnership with the brand. Her favorite items are the colic bottle with air-free vent and the Soothie Snuggle pacifier.

Additionally, on hand to offer parenting tips, pediatric advice and overall self-care wisdom to pregnant and new moms was Dr. Natasha Burgert. Dr.Burgert’s philosophies are in alignment with Johnson’s intuitions about pregnant as it pertains to community and self care. Dr. Burgert asserts that it is important for women seeking to get pregnant and newly pregnant moms to “decrease the stress in their lives, get proper rest and surround yourself with a supportive care team. You will have to be very confident in the care team that you choose, because there are so many unexpected things that happen along the way and you're going to have to be able to trust their advice very heavily.”

While preparing for motherhood is unpredictable, it’s clear that self care, rest and having a positive nurturing community and care team are vital to adding peace to the journey.

To keep up with Shannon Johnson and her pregnancy story, follow them on their YouTube channel entitled “The East Family”.

For pregnancy tips and information, you can find out more about pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert here.

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