Ashley Graham has never been more tired… or more thankful. With three children under three years old, the model is trying to stay focused on soaking up this current stage of motherhood — despite the chaos all around her.
“It’s been a lot. I’m taking a lot of Chinese herbs,” Graham tells Scary Mommy of keeping up with her 2½-year-old son, Isaac, while healing and adjusting to a new routine after the birth of her twins, Malachi and Roman, in January 2022.
The 34-year-old isn’t sure if it’s the herbs or hormone fluctuations, but she’s finally getting some energy back at nine months postpartum. Still, she admits it takes a village to keep up with the pace of the day-to-day.
“It’s the days that I’m alone with the kids, like all three, that feel like the most stressful, but also I’m like, ‘These are my children, and I need to enjoy them. I need to enjoy every single second. It’s going to be gone in the blink of an eye,'” she says while promoting a new campaign with diaper brand Coterie, which Graham’s personally and financially invested in.
Like most mothers, Graham admits she’s guilty of putting pressure on herself to be everything for everyone while also trying to prioritize her own well-being.
“My mom told me these will be the hardest years,” Graham says, “but just remember everything is a stage. So that’s what I remind myself, ‘This is the stage, this is the stage…'”
Graham welcomed Isaac ahead of the coronavirus pandemic in January 2020 and experienced first-time motherhood while in lockdown. She got pregnant again in February 2021, but experienced a miscarriage shortly after learning the news. A month later, she was expecting the twins.
Pregnancy after miscarriage is tough, Graham admits, and she experienced a few scary moments in those early weeks.
“I started bleeding within the first trimester, and I just had a couple of really low days,” she tells us, explaining that she kept thinking about what could go wrong. “If you are miscarrying, you have a couple of options, but, like, your mind just goes wild. And sure enough, we went in for the ultrasound, and that’s when I found out I was having twins. They said sometimes you bleed when your second placenta is growing or if you have one placenta and it splits. And I was like, ‘This is why I was bleeding! Because I have TWO babies in there?!’ It was just so crazy to think about all of that.”
Adding not one but two new family members to her brood was a big adjustment, one Graham is still working through.
“Having little kids is a lot, right? It’s stressful. It’s stressful on your marriage; it’s stressful in the home. But then you have to remind yourself what a blessing this is,” she says. “I have friends that are trying to conceive and I’m seeing their highs and their lows, and I’m just really trying to stay focused on what is in front of me. Not the negative parts of it, not the hard parts of it, but how amazing this time is.”
With a toddler and twins come triple the dirty diapers, triple the feeding time, and triple the sleepless nights. But Graham has “the most supportive partner and father” in her husband of 12 years, Justin Ervin, as well as her mom, Linda, who has been at her young family’s beck and call for over two years.
They decided to move out to the New Jersey suburbs after calling Brooklyn home for nearly two decades — due to the square footage needed to raise and contain little boys. (“To have to monitor three kids at the [city] playground and make sure everybody’s still there, no one’s missing … that’s true anxiety for me,” Graham admits.)
So far, life in the ‘burbs has been good but different, especially when Graham heads out to work or needs to travel. Her first time leaving the boys for an extended amount of time was during New York Fashion Week, and she panicked about it.
“Even though I didn’t leave them on the other side of the country, it’s still like I’m leaving my kids in New Jersey, and I came home and I just missed them so much,” she says. “And it’s not like I had anxiety walking or being in the mix of the fashion. It wasn’t even about how I felt, but it was like, ‘I have these three big responsibilities that I’m leaving at home.'”
As a model, Graham says her job has never been based on a 9-to-5 schedule but is more sporadic and spontaneous — and that has been an adjustment as a new mother.
“You’re traveling the world and you’re only here for this day and that day, and you’re living off of red eyes. But I’ve never had to do it with a thought process of I also have three incredibly major responsibilities at home that depend on me,” she admits. “To be able to put that responsibility onto someone else is, I mean, it’s stressful. It’s really stressful and very hard.”
Yet, Graham knows how important it is to focus on herself as much as she does her children because her happiness will ultimately benefit them. It’s one of the reasons she stopped breastfeeding the twins when they were about five months old. Her supply dropped following her return to work, and the pressure to keep up became too much. (Her babies now drink formula and, surprise, “they’re fine.”)
“They’re eventually going to eat that French fry they found on the ground, and they’re going to be OK,” Graham says, laughing.
“It’s part of the acceptance of the diverse world that we live in,” she insists. “Bodies look different, gender, skin color, age, I mean, this is what the world is made of.”
But it’s still “a Catch 22” to put aside caregiving duties to continue to pursue her dreams.
“They are so little, and I want to be there, but I also have to do this for their future and for myself,” Graham says. “One thing that I keep hearing from moms that have way more experience than me is that you have to pour into yourself. You have to pour into who you are right now so that the woman you are can be even better in the next few years. Because your kids are going to rely on you even more and more and more years to come.”
She adds, “My grandmother always told my mom, ‘The smaller the child, the smaller the problem. The bigger the child, the bigger the problem.’ And I think that makes me more anxious sometimes? Like, thinking about what’s to come.”
Yes, with each year comes a new chapter in the parenting book — but from the sound of it, Graham’s slowly adapting to each tale.
“The newborn stage, the breastfeeding stage, sleep training, a food one,” she concludes. “Now I feel like my next one is diapers and potty training. And then after that, I don’t really know what comes next, like putting a backpack on and going to school? I don’t know. Or no naps. Oh, my God. I don’t want to do no nap time! But, yeah, just like Coterie says, they’re there for the changes, and I’m ready to embrace them.”
This content was originally published here.