Alicia Quarles on prioritizing mental health and her new life with twins.

By Babe | Photos courtesy of Erin Bowman

We’re sitting down with the journalist and new twin mom to talk all things postpartum and how it pertains to mental health. After suffering a public mental breakdown last August, Alicia has grown to recognize the importance of self-care, meditation, therapy and slowing down when necessary, and we’re here for it. Read on.

Sooo how’s it going?

It’s going great. It was an interesting adjustment with two, but now we’re getting on a schedule, so I’m actually enjoying motherhood!

Did anything surprise you about the twin journey?

Twins run on my father’s side of the family, so the only twins I know are my family members that are twins. I don’t know any twin moms. So I was trying to reach out to all the twin parent communities for support. I was “catastrophizing,” reading about the worst things that could happen in anticipation–but none of those happened. I had a very easy pregnancy. I have one boy and one girl, Harlow and Hudson. Now that I have twins, so many twin moms have reached out. It feels like a specific sorority.

What’s postpartum life like?

I left the city and came down to North Carolina – that’s where my family is. I’ll go back to work in June, but I left New York, which was a culture shock because I’ve been there for 20 years. It’s been a total adjustment. The way I’ve worked so hard, I now work hard with these babies. It’s like a job, but an enjoyable job.

My mornings with them are specially sacred. I don’t give them up for anybody. For the twins, I have one that’s more needy than the other, so I make sure I give specific time with each of them. So if usually I get up at 6 am, now it’s 5 am. I make sure I shower first thing. I do the bottles for the day, and I spend an hour with each twin. They feed every three hours, so that’s really it.

Are you incorporating any self-care or wellness regimens?

As far as working out goes, I’m really honoring what my body needs. I had a c-section. They were also in the NICU, which was an hour away, so I was just trying to get there. But I have my first boxing class this weekend, and I’ve been walking with them every day for the last three weeks. The first 20 pounds came off really easy, but now I’m stuck. So I’m trying to get back into working out. I’m shocking my body into boxing. We’ll see if I survive the class.

What’s your postpartum style like?

For the first month, I kept wearing my maternity clothes – namely because I just kept being thrown up on. But I finally started wearing real clothes, like shift dresses. I’ve just been getting dressed up again. That feels good.

Can you describe what happened last summer and how it pertains to your mental health?

I’d always wanted to be a mom. I was married for seven years, and when that ended, I went to freeze my eggs. I was around 34, 35. The doctor told me I couldn’t freeze my eggs because I had fibroids, and that I’d be lucky if I could get pregnant. It made me feel so hopeless. But I went to another doctor and ended up getting 17 eggs, so I didn’t worry about it. Cut to the pandemic. I was dating someone, we broke up, and I felt that being a mom was never going to happen for me. It was the number one thing I was hoping for.

So we broke up, and I thought I’m going to have my best summer ever, and I threw myself into work. I was working three jobs. I was working hard, doing charity stuff. I just wasn’t taking any time for myself. I think often times as women, we don’t process loss and grief. That relationship was a loss. My dream of being a mother felt like a loss. But I just kept working and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I started feeling extreme fatigue. I even didn’t notice that I wasn’t getting a period. I thought it was because I was working so much.

It got to the point where I wore myself down and had a mental breakdown. Earlier that morning, I had taken a home pregnancy test and it had come out positive, but it was kind of faint, and I was like, are you kidding me? I was freaking out, but later that day I ended up in a hospital because mentally I was just tired. Really I was just pregnant.

About two weeks after that, I went for my first ultrasound, and my doctor saiid, good thing you’re laying down, because it’s twins. Most people would’ve freaked out, but to me it just felt peaceful, because it made sense. All of these heightened emotions I’d been feeling made sense. I’d been feeling crazy, but I wasn’t crazy. I was just pregnant with twins. I’d been going so hard and taking care of everyone else. I was like, I get it now.

“I’d been feeling crazy, but I wasn’t crazy. I was just pregnant with twins.”

After that, I had a really good pregnancy, but it took a serious change. When the breakdown happened, it all played out on social media. At the time, that was me thinking that I was protecting myself and reaching out for help – which probably wasn’t the best thing that happened, but it happened. That’s life, and I’m stronger for it.

I think one of the most positive things that came out of it is so many people have come to me and shared their mental health stories. I felt like, wow, I’m not alone in these things. There are so many people who have come out of these struggles better, brighter and happier. I take my mental health seriously. I have a therapist and I don’t miss that appointment. That’s for me. I have the means to have a nanny. I’m an older mom and I need that rest and sleep. I’ll never take my mental health for granted again.

How did that event change you?

It made me slow down. I did everything – keep going, keep going. Your mind and brain is a muscle. It has to relax and rest otherwise it’ll break. Also process everything, grief, hurt, all of it. I also feel like it made me a better journalist. It’s made me a kind person, not just a nice person. I think when you have more empathy, you can approach things from a different lens. Not that I was ever judging anyone, because that’s the last thing you should do in journalism – but when you walk in someone else’s shoes, you can tell their story better, with authenticity.

How do you approach your mental health now?

I learned that anxiety was a major trigger for me. I never knew that I suffered from anxiety. Now, at 4 am or 5 am, I can talk to it and say hey, you’re on my shoulder, get out of here. Meditation is also a big helper, and I take a lot of walks now. Also, realizing that I have a village. So many people have talked to me about their mental health struggles, and I’ve realized that if you’re going through something, you don’t have to go through it alone.

What’s next work-wise?

I’m looking forward to returning to Good Morning America 3, which I’m so excited about. And I’ve got a few projects that I can’t talk about yet. Being a mom has changed my career for the better, and I can’t wait to see what doors open up next.

Most importantly, I think it’s good to know that as a working mom, you can take a little time for yourself instead of giving it to everybody else. There’s nothing like taking a moment for you whenever you can, even if that’s just grabbing a bowl of ice cream or talking to a friend for a minute. Take a little time for yourself, because it goes a long way.