We sat down with the Schitt’s Creek actress to talk life with new baby, James Eugene (named for her dad and Schitt’s co-creator, Eugene Levy), her peaceful life postpartum, and plans to get back in front of the camera on SYFY television show, SurrealEstate. In the meantime, it’s family hangs and lots of cuddles, as Sarah eases into this whole mom thing the Levy way – with plenty of laughs to go around.
How did your birth go? Can you share any details about the experience?
It caught me by surprise! He was three weeks early, and there were no signs of him coming early. Everything was fine throughout the pregnancy. He just decided, “look out world, now is my time.” It was funny because these contractions just came on suddenly and I thought they were Braxton Hicks, because everyone was asking me if I had experienced that yet. I actually had them a few weeks before but they were mild. It wasn’t what I was starting to feel.
So he was born on a Wednesday and these started Monday night. They kept me up all night, and something in my gut told me they were feeling a bit stronger than they should be. So I made an appointment with my OBGYN and he got us in the next day to make sure all was OK. Everything was fine, there were no signs of labor, no dilation, nothing felt alarming at all. But the contractions kept coming and they were getting stronger. I didn’t quite know what to do.
One girlfriend told me that her doctor said if she can talk through them, she was fine. I couldn’t. I was in labor. Then they started going into my back. So my husband texted my OB and he said to go in. Luckily we were a two minute drive from the hospital because I was already four centimeters dilated. This was at 12:45am and he was born at 10:30am the next morning. Labor and delivery was super smooth – and there he was and he was perfect.
Outside of his early arrival, did anything surprise you about giving birth?
It’s funny because my husband and I started an online course and a series of videos about labor and delivery but we hadn’t gotten to the end yet, so I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was what I saw on television and film – that it’s this extremely arduous process, where women are screaming and sweating and it’s chaos and mayhem in the delivery room. I was so pleasantly surprised. Granted, I got an epidural, but there was none of that. My labor and delivery was so peaceful and felt really relaxed. I was able to connect with my husband and connect with our midwife and doctor. I listened to Kacey Musgraves. I’m so glad that’s what it was.
What was your husband doing while you were in labor?
Everyone asked him his plan and if he going to see what was going on. I know some husbands get all involved. He just kind of stayed up by my head and counted, and that was his job and he did a great job. It was really nice to have him up by me the whole time. We felt very in sync considering we were both going through two different things.
Comedy is obviously such a central part of your family’s heritage. Any hilarious stories from labor? There are always a few….
I think my epidural was a little stronger than I anticipated it being. So the nurses kept saying, “Let us know whenever your water breaks,” because my water hadn’t broken by that point. I thought, OK, well he’s coming at his own time. I’ll wait and see if it breaks on its own. So they came back in because his heart rate was a little low. The nurse comes over to me and is like, OH your water broke!! I literally had no idea. I couldn’t feel a thing.
How did your brother and parents react to another male member of the family?
My dad was incredibly touched that we named him James Eugene, and honestly, I could not imagine any other middle name for James. In my family we name people after middle names. It was just a nice way to honor my dad. Both my brother and dad were so excited to meet him. They were both away and they planned on being home around the due date. So we had the week to ourselves in the very beginning before everyone descended. I was so excited to see my brother Dan with him. James is my parents’ first grandchild, too. It’s been a really incredible summer. It brought everyone even closer.
I see my son now and understand the desire to protect him.
I love how your entire family worked on Schitt’s Creek together. How do you plan to emulate (or differentiate) your new family’s path?
I think about it now and understand why my parents worked so hard to divert me and my brother from show business. It’s obviously so challenging. I see my son now and understand the desire to protect him. To not ever let anyone say anything negative, to keep him safe. But obviously I would love for him to follow his passions. I’m so grateful I had that experience with my family pre-baby, so if bringing him into our fold and having that same experience again is possible, I’m more than open to it.
How has your postpartum experience been? Is it what you expected?
That’s another thing that caught me off guard. I didn’t know what to expect postpartum. I was kind of expecting the worst, just so that if it wasn’t great, I’d be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed. Actually, he’s been such a good baby. We’ve been so lucky in his temperament.
I think people find out you’re having a baby and everyone offers their two cents. It’s a lot of “get ready, it’s insane” talk. It is, but not in the way that I was interpreting that. It’s a lot more time management and lack of sleep, which I did not anticipate. But it’s been a lot more manageable than I thought it would be. We haven’t hit a moment where he’s totally inconsolable. I can’t imagine how difficult that is and what stress that puts on your relationship. So I feel very grateful that it’s so far so good.
What do you think are the biggest differences in American parenting verses Canadian parenting?
The only thing I’ve noticed is the maternity leave. In Canada you get at least six months, plus a lot of companies will carry over and subsidize a year. Most of my friends in Canada took the full year. Some took 18 months and I think about the state of America, and this idea that some people don’t get any time. Some people get the standard three months. Some people get eight weeks. It’s shocking, especially having gone through it now, and getting how difficult it is on your mental health and body, and how everything’s changing. I don’t know how to fix that, and it’s such a shame that women have to make that choice when they should just be spending time with their baby if they choose to. Of course, a lot of women want to get back to work after a certain period of time, which I get, too.
Speaking of, what are your maternity leave plans?
I mentally gave myself six months – to take that time and depending on what jobs came up, I would decide based on location and length of time. I was pretty adamant about that four to six months. That being said, I’m going back to work in November. I’m doing the second season of a show called SurrealEstate. That came up unexpectedly. It was canceled and then brought back. It’s something I wanted to make work. Of course, James knew I needed as much time as I could, so he gave me an extra three weeks to prepare. I’m looking forward to going back.
What’s some advice you have for any woman on the pregnancy journey?
I think my biggest piece of advice, for anyone who cares to take it, is to just be as gentle with yourself as much as possible and not put any expectation on yourself. Try to avoid pressure to feel a certain way, or look a certain way or be active or look active. Everyone’s journey is so different. It’s all about your headspace and making time for yourself – whether it’s 10 minutes or two minutes. Especially during pregnancy – be kind to yourself. It’s so easy to compare, especially with social media and “bounce back culture.” Just ignore everything and do what feels right for you. Of course it’s easier said than done. I’m trying to take my own advice everyday.
How about a little QuickFire Round….
The one thing that got me through labor was: an epidural
Parenting to me means: selflessness
My baby’s so freiken cute when he’s: all the time!!! When he smiles!!
Epidurals are: worth it!