Being Mama: Elizabeth Chambers Hammer
For journalist, entrepreneur and mama-of-two Elizabeth, pregnancy was quite different the second time around. She shares her difficulty with placenta previa, the challenges of owning a business and being a mother, and the best advice her mother gave her.
Being Elizabeth Chambers Hammer seems pretty idyllic if you ask us. The Chief Correspondent of the Human Rights Foundation, and entrepreneur (she owns BIRD Bakery in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas – more on that later), is mama to Harper, two, and Ford, who was born in January. Her husband is The Social Network star Armie Hammer (yes, the guy who literally played Prince Charming in Mirror, Mirror), and their six-year marriage seems almost impossibly romantic. What’s more, she gets to eat cake for a living, as a judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and Sugar Showdown.
But under the glossy surface, Chambers has suffered from placenta previa, a common but dangerous condition where expectant mothers are often put on bed rest early in their pregnancies as the placenta has formed at the bottom of the uterus, making vaginal delivery impossible and increasing risks for baby and mama. “My first pregnancy was a dream,” Chambers says. “I didn’t have morning sickness or much fatigue.” Chambers worked up until the day she gave birth to Harper, now two, and walked seven miles the day she went into labor with her… a full 16 days after her due date. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m taking more supplements and more focused on nutrition (drinking green smoothies and protein shakes in place of red wine!), but I have to say, I feel best when I’m pregnant,” says Chambers.
So being diagnosed with placenta previa was something of a shock to this mama. “I was advised to ‘slow down’ and not travel or work as much,” she explains. Despite owning a bakery and being a judge for the Food Network, Chambers is definitely health-conscious, and was frustrated to not be able to work out during this pregnancy. “My days of long walks and runs, and intense Body By Simone classes were a distant memory!”
While Chambers’ pregnancy with Harper went smoothly, the birth was a different story. ” For 18 hours, I had a natural, hypno-birthing experience. But after the eighteenth hour of vomiting (due to a possible infection), I stopped progressing and the doctor strongly recommended a walking epidural.” Though Chambers was adamant she didn’t want to use drugs during birth – her own mother birthed four children without them (one of whom was ten pounds!) – eventually, the epidural turned from a strong recommendation to a necessity. “I was dehydrated and my body was under such stress that by the time they administered the most minimal walking epidural possible, I completely relaxed and progressed immediately. Harper made her entrance very shortly after and like any mom will tell you, the previous 20+ hours were quickly forgotten!”
Though the second time around was a little more difficult for Chambers, oddly enough, she says she was more relaxed during her second pregnancy. “Looking back on my first pregnancy now, I feel I may have over-prepared. For instance, I did A LOT of labor coaching the first time around. My husband and I went to several private hypnobirthing classes with a local specialist. Looking back, it may have been a bit much!” Chambers also got serious about health and nutrition during her pregnancy with Harper, saying she was “obsessed” DHA. “I read a book that talked about the benefits of DHA and baby’s brain development, and I made a point to eat 6-10 ounces of wild salmon every single day of my pregnancy!” With Ford, Chambers says she “definitely took more of a balanced approach” and isn’t nearly as “salmon-obsessed”!
For this busy mama, there’s no typical ‘day in the life’ – every day, says Chambers, is a blur of meetings, phone calls and showing up on set. She and husband Armie opened BIRD Bakery in San Antonio in 2012 after noticing a gap in the market there and the bakery went from strength to strength with a second location opening in Dallas’ glamorous Highland Park Village at the end of 2016 (incidentally, The Tot Pop Up Store, opened up just next door!). Serving up old-fashioned sweets like pecan pie and peanut butter bars, the bakery also has an altruistic element, with all leftover pastries being donated to non-profit charities at the end of each day. “Whether I’m on set, or at the bakery or taking meetings, I’m always on the go and shifting from one thing to another,” says Chambers. “Wearing so many hats is definitely an exercise in mental organization and multi-tasking. I have a lot going on, but thankfully, I have an incredible team and systems in place to streamline the process as much as possible.”
Being so busy means that downtime is often at the very bottom of Chambers’ to-do list. “We live in a time where it’s nearly impossible to check out completely,” she admits. “During my labor with Harper, I was honestly on my phone before, during and shortly after! Owning and running a company with two businesses that are basically always open and having a constant stream of emails and texts makes it difficult to take time away.” The key to balancing the needs of her young family, and her career, says Chambers, is being present. “When I’m with my family, I try to focus completely on what we are doing and not let work calls or emotions influence that time. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but being aware of that compartmentalization is incredibly helpful.” Chambers admits, too, that she’s lucky enough to be able to bring Harper to work with her. “She’s perfectly at home on set and knows to be quiet when we’re rolling. She’s the perfect work and travel companion!”
While Chambers says her own mother was a “super mom” (“She cooked every meal, sewed every costume and was there for us every day”), her own motherhood motto is about being kind to herself. “I recently read a quote that said, you cannot serve from an empty vessel. It resonated with me because, just like putting the oxygen mask on first before helping others on a plane, you have to be the best version of yourself to be the best for others.” For Chambers, that means taking time for massages, acupuncture or even just a hot bath. “Taking time to do those simple things lets me be the best I can be — both to my family and at work.”
As for her advice to new mamas, Chambers has some sage wisdom. “You have to be flexible. When it’s just you and a child is not in the picture, it’s easier to have a clear idea of what you want and how to execute it. As a mom, you know that your plan is just that—a plan that is very subject to change! And as long as nobody was hurt and there’s no irreparable damage, all is well in the world. It’s perspective, really.”
Elizabeth’s maternity style
“My pregnancy maternity style is pretty much the same as my non-maternity style – classic with an edge. I didn’t give up heels or dress much differently just because I was pregnant. I simply tried to find pieces that were flattering, just as I normally would. That said, it definitely takes more effort when you’re pregnant. I’m always tempted to throw on Lululemon yoga pants (and remember, I haven’t attended a single yoga class while preg) on days that I can, but I try to make an effort to choose a dress or jeans instead. It’s easy to take California casual to the next level.”
“I didn’t buy any maternity clothes the first time around and relied on my favorites lines—J Brand jeans, Isabel Marant and more flowy styles from Vince, Club Monaco and Top Shop. This pregnancy, I’ve done the same thing, but also discovered that there’s the whole world on hatchcollection.com. I absolutely love their pieces and appreciate that their dresses and tops are so well cut you can wear them through pregnancy and beyond. I promise this is #notanad. Ha!”