Media Star Natalie Manuel Lee On raising the next generation.

By Ruthie Friedlander

Small in stature with a big personality, Natalie is about to give birth to her first baby and the second season of ‘Now With Natalie’—a docuseries interviewing the likes of Hailey Bieber (oh, no big deal) and other rad humans on their faith journeys. 

Here, this sparkling mama-to-be talks connecting with her community, raising the next generation, surrendering to her body, and living with purpose.

Pregnancy feels?

I feel great now, but the first four to five weeks were tough. Physically, I was super tired, didn’t have an appetite, and was nauseous all day. Emotionally, I felt out of sorts and a little depressed which is not like me. Of course, none of this was what I expected. For starters: morning sickness is real, and it’s not only in the morning but rather all daywho knew!

Pregnancy as a whole has been completely different than I anticipated. Once I got through the worst of it, I settled into this new season of my life and began to trust, relinquish control, and relax into the unknown.

Path to pregnancy?

My husband and I have known each other since we were kids and have been together for years. While we knew we wanted to have a family, it never felt like the “right time,” until now. Then something switched for both of us in January of 2020, we finally felt ready to become parents. In early March, we conceived the good old fashioned way just before lockdown.

Pregnant during Covid?

For me, entering this “season of new,” (pregnant, at the start of Covid-19) brought up some fear around the concept of losing control, but the reality is, control is an illusion. With change comes the unknown, and the unknown can feel scary. When I step back and look at the truth of the situation, being pregnant during Covid-19 was fine for the most part, but I don’t have anything else to compare it to. After all, this is my first time being pregnant. There has been slight disappointments, such as my husband can’t come with me to the appointments or hear her heartbeat in person. And, we aren’t able to celebrate with our community in the way that I would like, but we have found a way to make that work for us and socialize with precaution. Ultimately, these are minor in the grand scheme of life. It’s been a mental dance of doing my part through Covid-19, which means putting on the mask and washing my hands but also doing my best to enjoy this belly changing, life-changing experience. Whenever fear comes in, I remind myself what a joyous gift it is to be pregnant.

What does “season of new” mean to you?

The “new” is navigating the unchartered territory of my stomach stretching and a human growing inside me. The “new” changes day-to-day: I don’t know what I’m going to feel today. I don’t know if I’m going to be nauseous or not. I don’t know if I will feel her kick or not. The “new” is being present to following her lead and checking in with her about how we feel moment to moment.

Right now, I am learning to submit to the process and listen to what my body needs. Part of the “new” is being aware of what I’m eating from the amount of sugar I’m consuming to the protein I’m having and the iron I require daily. The “new” is walking when I need to walk, resting when I need to rest, and listening to my body—all of which I have never done before. Pre-pregnancy, I’d grab a cup of coffee when I was tired and keep going. Now, when I’m tired, I relax rather than rely on caffeine.

The anatomy of a woman’s body is spriritual; I’m in awe of us. There’s arms and legs and a stomach growing inside of me. And when she kicks, it brings tears to my eyes. No wonder they say birth is a miracle; it’s nothing but God, in my opinion.

Cravings, much?

Anything sweet: peanut butter, cookies, ice cream, you name it, I want it. However, I’ve tried to reign that in and reach for fruit rather than candy when I’m craving sweets. I didn’t love fruit or vegetables before, but I’m training my body and tastebuds to crave the things I should be consuming.

I passed my sugar test but was TERR…IFY…ED that I’d fail it because I have the biggest sweet tooth, ask anyone. After taking the test, I held my breath for days until the doctor called me. It came as a huge relief and again made me realize how much sugar I consume.

Working throughout pregnancy and Covid-19?

My pregnancy hasn’t affected my work; if anything, it’s motivated me to go a little harder, knowing that I have someone coming into this world whom I’m doing it for.

Over the past few months, I’ve been in post-production for my show, ‘Now With Natalie,’ a series of conversations with influential people about their faith journey. Season two launched a few days ago! It’s ten episodes with interesting people such as Jordyn Woods, Angela Rye, Van Lathan, Brian Welch, and more—tune in on September 19th via YouTube.

Ah-ha moment to start the show?

I have always been in the industry, first as a kid—my dad was a professional baseball player—and then as an adult—I was in fashion on the brand side, working with my brother’s line, Fear of God. After working with my brother, I wanted to do something that merged my insight into the entertainment world, fashion, and culture, with faith. I was looking to engage in authentic, unearthing conversations with influential celebrities in their day-to-day life, including their faith walk. There’s not much content that offers this perspective. I love connecting and communicating with people: asking questions, digging deep, seeing how they navigate their life, and more so how they navigate being in the spotlight and with faith as their foundation.

Maternity leave?

She comes in December, which I’m grateful for as my industry slows down around that time. I will be in a season of rest and nesting for those first few months and then plan to get back to it. What will it look like? I’m not sure, especially as we go into filming season 3. Will she come on set with me, or will my mom help out? I haven’t gotten there yet. I plan to take it day by day, month by month—a little like how we’re all living—and see how it unfolds.

Thoughts on raising your daughter?

We’re a family anchored in faith—this is where we derive our sense of purpose and peace; it’s our foundation. It’s a blessing to have conceived during this pandemic, and knowing we’re about to raise a Black daughter is a privilege, especially as so much comes to light for the Black community and women. Never mind the fact that babies being born at this time are going to be POW…ER…FUL! I genuinely believe that it will be an incredible generation of children, and can’t wait to see what they will do.

Reading or listening?

I’m reading Nurture, by Erica Chidi Cohen. It’s full of gems and has made me more aware of what’s happening in my body and conscious of the things I should or shouldn’t be doing, eating, or not eating, and so on.

One hope?

She’s confident in who she is and grows up to be a fearless and healthy human being.