What many people remember from “Blossom,” besides the hats with sunflowers which my character sometimes wore, is the relationship between Blossom and her best friend Six, named so because her “father said that’s how many beers it took.” The actress who played Six was two years younger than me and her name is Jenna von Oy.
Jenna is now a mother of a toddler, and although we had spoken sporadically over the years since the show ended, Jenna’s becoming a mom started a new phase of our relationship. I was able to do some breastfeeding counseling for her (I am a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor) and we have shared a lot about our parenting and lives in the past year. In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month a few months ago, we decided to start a dialogue which we would post jointly here and on her website. Some of it is about our lives, some is about our parenting, some is just us catching up.
You can read my interview of Jenna below, and you can read Jenna’s interview of me on her website, www.cradlechronicles.com. I know it’s not a full “Blossom” reunion, but we think this might be a tad more interesting than seeing us try and dance like teenagers as grown adults while wearing flowered hats, floral dresses with vests, and those little clips that cinch the vest and clunky shoes with scrunched down socks.
Actually, come to think of it, that sounds incredibly interesting. I’ll get back to you about making that happen.
You are known for your hysterical portrayal of Six LeMeure on “Blossom” but a lot of people want to know, in a nutshell, what you have been up to since then!? Did you continue acting? Singing? You always had such a stunning voice!
Thank you! There are so many after-Blossom years to cover here, that I’m not sure where to begin… The highlights are as follows: I went to USC Film School, and then accepted a role on a series called “The Parkers” (now in syndication), which I worked on for five seasons. Once that ended, I packed up and moved to Nashville, where I spent a few years co-writing, co-producing, and self-publishing two albums. The first was Breathing Room, which was a singer/songwriter, pop-country, post-breakup, desperately-seeking-catharsis album. It was followed by the quirkier, wackier, somewhat kitschier, and significantly more sarcastic Coffee & Men: An EP For Childish Adults, which was intended for film and television placement (both can be found on iTunes and Amazon).
I’m definitely still acting, though residing in Nashville doesn’t easily allow for pursuing my career as much as I’d like. That, combined with being a stay-at-home mommy, makes it a little tougher to jet set to Los Angeles on a whim. These days, I mostly come into town when I book something. That said, I’m still INCREDIBLY passionate about my career, and I’m constantly looking for new projects!
To fill in the creative gaps, I’ve spent the last couple of years writing. Aside from my own weekly blog, The Cradle Chronicles (where I dispense my zany motherhood anecdotes, and where my interview with you is currently posted). I pen a monthly blog for People.com. I recently finished a fictional book for young adults, titled The Betweeners, and I’m currently pursuing publishing a fun book based on my mommy blogs. Obviously my personal life has taken a drastic turn over the last few years as well! I met my husband, Brad, here in Nashville about five years ago. We married in 2010, and had our beautiful daughter, Gray, in May of 2012. They are the most profound blessings I’ve ever known.
How did you cope with how recognizable you were after “Blossom” ended? I feel like we walked off of the TV and into the “real world” and I wonder what it was like for you.
It was certainly a bit surreal, especially considering we had to make that adjustment as teenagers. Adolescence is such an awkward time even without the addition of (and subsequent deprivation of) a popular television show, a steady paycheck, and a public image to uphold… Not that I’m complaining! It was a gift to work on such a successful series, and I recognized it as such. I think that probably made a huge difference in how I handled things. I had too much respect for how fortunate we were and what we’d accomplished to screw it up. Thankfully, a close-knit family and supportive friends also made the transition smoother for me.
Needless to say, listening to fellow students shout “Whoa!” at the top of their lungs across the USC campus wasn’t my favorite part of the college experience. At the same time, it meant people were watching our show, so how could I be mad at that? I tried to take it in stride and be flattered. I’d like to think we both turned out all right, despite existing in our insulated little Blossom sound stage arena for all of those years.
Tell us about your daughter: how old is she now, what was your birth experience like? What is being a mom like?!
Gray just turned 15 months, and she’s a little firecracker. It feels like she skipped learning to walk, and went straight to running and climbing! She’s also talking a mile a minute (which is, undoubtedly, my karma), though it’s partly in Toddler-ese, so I don’t necessarily understand it all. I’m doing my best to keep up!
My birth experience, in a nutshell, was a reminder that the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. However, that isn’t to say the results aren’t equally beautiful. Leading up to Gray’s delivery, I had a well-plotted course of action, which included a doula and a natural birth. Thanks to abysmally low amniotic fluid, and my daughter being stuck in the breech position, I wound up with a Caesarean Section three weeks before my due date. There was just no way for them to turn her around without risking her wellbeing. Obviously, my child’s health and protection were the most important aspects of the whole deal, so I had to come to terms with enduring a completely different method of birth than I’d anticipated–one that was, for all intents and purposes, the antithesis of what I’d hoped for. Nonetheless, it is our story. In retrospect, it is the most stunning and exquisite experience I could have had, natural birth or not. The C-section is part of our history together, so I view it with intense love and appreciation.
How did you decide to breastfeed? What information did you have going in to birth that helped you keep on breastfeeding?
I’ve always known I would breastfeed. I guess you could say I’m attached to the idea of being attached. My mother breastfed all of us children (I’m the oldest of four), and I’ve had dreams about it since I was about 12. Even as a little girl, I looked forward to it because it was presented to me as something beautiful and natural. My mom absolutely adored breastfeeding, and always spoke of the unparalleled bond it creates between mother and child. I also whole-heartedly believe in the health/medicinal benefits of breastfeeding.
Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think formula is the devil incarnate, it just isn’t for me. I want to be clear that I’m not putting anyone else’s choices down, just expressing my own feelings about it. I think far too much time is spent condemning other mothers for how they give birth or raise their children. I would prefer we spend our time building each other up instead! It’s one of the reasons I respect you so much–when I’ve come to you for parenting advice, you’ve never made me feel judged or patronized, regardless of whether or not we were coming at it from the same angle. That’s a gift!
You safely co-sleep with your daughter; how did you make that decision?
We actually came about that decision fairly organically. Our master bedroom is tucked away downstairs, and Gray’s nursery is upstairs. Once I gave birth to her, and had her near me, I just couldn’t fathom forcing that kind of distance between us. Thankfully, my husband felt the same! We started with a bassinette across the room from our bed, and even that felt too far away. Gray has never been much of a crier, so subtle movements are what I rely on for cues, and those got lost when she wasn’t close by. Sometimes the things that make sense in your head, in the context of your whole “grand parenting plan,” don’t wind up making sense in your heart. In theory, putting our daughter to bed in her own crib, in her own room, on the floor above us, was fine… But our hearts argued that. We really try to listen carefully to that little voice that assists us in our parenting decisions. Ultimately, co-sleeping just felt right.
In my work as a lactation educator counselor, I often discuss with moms the “public” misconceptions about breastfeeding on demand and also breastfeeding “all night” as a normal, if challenging, style of parenting. What have you found the most helpful about not “fighting” your daughter but, rather, providing her with what she needs without fear she will “never” wean?
In general, I don’t worry that she’ll “never” wean… Just as I didn’t fret that she’d never learn to walk or say “mommy.” Everything in its own time. Feeding on demand happens to work for us. Believe it or not, I sleep much better because of it! That’s not to say I’m always fully awake during nighttime feedings, but it’s pretty comfortable and seamless for us. Not to mention, Gray sleeps better. I like that she knows her “num num” is never far away, so she never wakes up crying or screaming for it. She quietly lets me know she’s ready for some, and then immediately goes back to sleep when she’s done. Feeding on demand sort of became our new normal… I don’t find it to be overly challenging, because I don’t fight it. Except, of course, when we’re in public places where I’d prefer to keep my clothes on. That’s when the art of distraction (or a good turtleneck) comes in handy.
What keeps you going as a mom on the long nights of teething, or the sleepless nights, or the frustrating days when all she seems to want is to nurse and be on you?
Love–an endless abundance of it, coming out of the woodwork and pouring into every tear or sigh of frustration. That’s certainly not to say I don’t get cranky and overwhelmed from time to time. We all do, and I refuse to be dishonest about that. But I try to remember that these days are fleeting. One day soon, I’ll be looking back at these moments–even the challenging ones–and wishing I could recapture and revisit them. I try to keep that sentiment close to the surface. (That said–laughter and benign self-deprecation help me along sometimes too!)
As you and most of America knows, I nursed my older son until after 2 and my younger son was night weaned at 3 but kept right on nursing until about 4 1/2 when he self-weaned. Here’s a photo of me nursing him on the NY subway when he was almost 3, and here is a beautiful photo of you nursing Gray recently. I love this picture, especially her cute little hand reaching for “the other side” as my boys called it. What are your plans–if any–for weaning and why?
I honestly don’t have any concrete plans for weaning because I’m following my heart, rather than following time. It isn’t that I haven’t considered the notion; I’m just not in any rush. I take each day as it comes, and feel that as long as my husband and I encourage love and appropriate boundaries, we’re in good shape. Gray is already proving to be quite motivated, independent, and opinionated (clearly my kid), so I imagine she’ll decide she’s had enough at some point, or is too busy to be bothered with it anymore. I’m actually dreading that day, as I suspect I’ll miss it more than she does!
Thank you for your time and honesty, Jenna. It has been so much fun getting to know you as adults and as breastfeeding cosleeping mamas to boot!