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Why Shawn Johnson Wasn't Expecting to Have a Baby This Year

Sarah Grossbart
·7 min read
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Shawn Johnson East had a whole plan for her summer vacation.

One of U.S. Gymnastics' most decorated—and adored—athletes, the four-time medalist inked a contract to spend a few weeks in Tokyo offering her expert commentary on the Olympic Games, just as she had in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.

Then life intervened.

Eager to give 15-month-old daughter Drew a sibling close in age, "We said we would start trying around a year thinking it would take at least a year," Shawn explained to E! News of their approach to having a second baby. "So this was a shock. We did not think it would happen this fast or we would be dealing with this this soon."

And the expedited timing created a bit of a wrinkle when it came to her work schedule: "Our due date is technically the opening ceremonies. So I don't think we'll be there."

2021 Summer Olympics Status Check

Logistical peccadilloes aside (could she be offering commentary on Simone Biles' triple twisting double back maneuver over Zoom while performing her own feat of strength?), the Easts couldn't be more thrilled about the new direction their life is headed.

"We kinda just have the mindset of we are people who love our sleep and love our routine and love just having some stability in life," she explained. "And we're like, why not just knock this out and go through it all right now instead of getting comfortable and then going through it again?"

Shawn Johnson
Shawn Johnson

And the Nashville residents can't wait to watch their "very sassy, very opinionated" toddler embrace her role as big sis. "I don't have siblings," Shawn noted. "Andrew has four and they're all very close together. I love seeing that bond that they have, so it was kind of a dream of mine to have kids pretty decently close so they could grow up together and be pretty close."

Though, to be clear, she's put the ixnay on the 29-year-old former NFL long snapper's dream of having a brood as big as the one he grew up with in Indianapolis. "If we're really ambitious, we might go for a third, but right now I think we're set on two," she stressed. And with Baby East set to arrive three months before her daughter's second birthday, said Shawn, "I'm so excited to see Drew's reaction and to watch her nurture a sibling. I'm excited for all of the milestones again."

Just a year and a half removed from her last pregnancy, the Iowa native, 29, expected it to be a bit like riding a bike. Just, you know, with more nausea and exhaustion. "I thought it would feel like old hat," she said. "But I forgot everything! I even forgot what I can't eat. I was like, 'What is happening?'"

And this go-round is "100 percent different" than the first, with Shawn battling more headaches, nausea and a gag reflex that "is just on a different level," she revealed. "I pulled a hair out of my daughter's mouth last night and almost projectile vomited, which is not like me."

Thankfully, her second pregnancy has also brought an uptick in her I've-got-this feelings. Having committed herself so intensely to her first birth plan that she experienced intense guilt when her 22-hour labor ended with a c-section, this time "I went to my first appointment and I was like, 'Doc, this one's up to you,'" she joked. "Whatever happens. It's just a completely different experience, which is funny."

A more seasoned pro, she's not stressing herself out about scooping up every swaddle, pacifier and bottle that Buy Buy Baby carries. "With Drew I felt like the day I got pregnant I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I need to do the nursery, I need to buy all this stuff,'" she recalls of diving into nesting mode during her first trimester. "And this time I almost feel like neglectful to this baby because I'm like, 'Oh, we'll figure it out when they get here.' Which I think is just total second baby syndrome."

To be fair, they have a plan. After not learning Drew's sex until delivery, "I think we've kind of decided we want to find out this time," she said, adding they're hoping to hold a reveal and "actually prep the nursery properly and not buy ridiculously excessive amounts of things because we weren't sure."

Shawn Johnson, Drew East, Instagram 2020
Shawn Johnson, Drew East, Instagram 2020

As for the more complicated bits—say, juggling a newborn with a spirited toddler intent on testing every one of her limits—she has a lifeline just a few doors down.

"One of my best friends, Mallory Ervin, is my go-to for all baby advice," she shared of the YouTube star and Amazing Race alum. "She lives, like, a block from me and she has two under two. I think they're only 13 months apart. And she's coaching me day-by-day through all of it."

With her phone-a-friend on speed dial and 15 months of parenting experience, Shawn feels confident enough to brush off the never-ending chorus of mommy advice she gets on Instagram and trust her gut. Even as Drew edges perilously close to the so-called terrible twos.

"She has hit a whole new level of stubbornness, which is a massive test to me and my husband," the athlete shared. While they appreciate their daughter's self-assuredness, "You'll tell her no and she'll look at you, dead in the eyes, and then go ahead and do what it is we told her not to do," she said. "And it's like, woooooow. Wow. Okay. I see how this is going to go."

Shawn Johnson,  L'EGGO WITH EGGO
Shawn Johnson, L'EGGO WITH EGGO

In other words, navigating life with a strong-willed toddler amid a global pandemic has been anything but boring. Any plans for outside childcare scrapped, Shawn's mom Teri Johnson stepped in as nanny, allowing the retired athletes to continue working on their various partnerships, YouTube channel, podcast, Teddy & Bear sock line and Uniqorn coffee brand from their Tennessee home.

Having a seasoned pro around has also helped during some of those "Oh, my toddler is running the show" moments. "I have literally cried because I tried so hard one morning to fix an elaborate, you know, Michelin star meal for her that she would just then feed to the dog," said Shawn, explaining why Eggo's current campaign championing parents' small wins "hit way too close to home." (The fact that the brand's signature waffle was her breakfast of choice, covered in butter and syrup, "for, not exaggerating, at least 12 years" only sweetened the deal.)

Ten months deep into balancing work and childcare, she and Andrew have learned to accept that some days end with Drew's meals scattered on the floor and everyone feeling just a little bit on edge. "She's really starting to try to communicate and we're working on the baby sign language and she's doing a really, really good job," Shawn said, "but you can tell she's in that phase of frustration where she wants something and she'll tell you she wants more, but she doesn't know how to say what it is."

Asked how they've handled the 2020 of it all, she admitted it's definitely been a learning process. "We would go through ups and downs emotionally, just like the world," she noted. "And we just have always said, 'Take one day at a time.' We'll tackle today and tomorrow is a whole new story."

Which brings her back to the Olympics conundrum.

Shawn wasn't particularly excited about introducing Drew to that side of her life, conscious that her tot couldn't so much as take a tumbling class without instructors seeing visions of gold medals and red, white and blue leotards dancing in their head. "My worst fear is to ever get to a point where she feels pressured to follow in my footsteps. Or to be successful in athletics," she explained of her reasoning for keeping her medals and trophies stored away. "I want her to be able to just pave her own path."

But they had absolutely planned to be Japan-bound this summer, an idea that Andrew ambitiously brought up to her OB. "He's like, 'So, Doc, we're supposed to go to the Olympics,'" she recalled. "And the only response she had was to laugh."

At this point, regarding her commentating obligations, "I don't know if I'll be doing that virtually from the hospital bed. We still have to figure out some logistics."

Like everything else, though, she's confident they'll work out a solution. She's learned plans can be overrated anyhow.