It's working for Allison Harris, White House Correspondent for News Nation
I’m also finally comprehending that when you have a child, chaos is constant, so you just have to accept that and keep going.
Reassurance that I wouldn’t lose myself and my identity as a mom, and that becoming a mom would ultimately make me sharper in all areas of my life, giving me more purpose and confidence in my capabilities. And to trust my instincts as a new mom.
I immediately think of Hallie Jackson and Leigh Ann Caldwell, two incredible moms and journalists in Washington who were so quick to celebrate and support me and our new family in so many ways. My colleagues in our DC bureau at News Nation have always been so supportive of me and happy for me. And there are many talented moms covering the Biden administration at the White House and in politics in Washington, in general, whom I’ve felt uplifted by — including women I’ve never even met at other networks who send me messages of encouragement, understanding what it’s like to juggle a demanding job while being a new mom.
I took six months off after Lane was born. I am extremely grateful for that time, especially considering the health complications we were dealing with, and am keenly aware how many women in the United States, specifically, do not get anywhere near that amount of time to heal, bond with their child and just not rush back into a work environment that can feel so foreign after having a baby. I think that made all the difference in making my transition back to work actually exciting; I felt ready to get back to a career I love. Our day to day as a family is so meticulously scheduled. I definitely had an insane amount of stress in those first months back at work any time something would throw a wrench in the schedule — added live shots to lengthen the work day, an hour of programming being added at our “fastest-growing” cable news network. Oftentimes, it meant I wouldn’t get even 30 minutes in the day to myself. I know that’s common for so many moms, but knowing that doesn’t make it any better. I’ve prided myself on being able to set boundaries in an industry that will never give you time to stop if you don’t demand it. Luckily, I’ve been able to carve out a schedule with our bureau chief that is conducive to being a mom, as well as a wife to a husband whose schedule is also different each day (he’s the Senior Capitol Hill Correspondent for NBC News). I’m also finally comprehending that when you have a child, chaos is constant, so you just have to accept that and keep going.
Wow, thank you! That is very kind. I’m so much stronger and capable than I ever thought. It’s incredibly empowering becoming a mother. From physical strength to emotional fortitude. I know more about the world now. I’m better at talking about policies affecting children and families. Every story we do about children and families hits differently now. I immediately see Lanie’s face in the faces of migrants at the border or elementary school students in lockdown. It makes everything more personal and more important, and I better understand the issues parents are facing.
I was told by doctors that the health complications I experienced at the end of pregnancy, including gestational hypertension, which they were concerned would develop into preeclampsia, is not a reflection of my lifestyle because I have always been (incredibly fortunately) healthy. But going through that really motivated me to take my health seriously — more seriously than ever. I hired a trainer and started working out with her two or three times a week for 45 minutes right as I went back to work. It has been another privileged investment and amazing in all the obnoxious ways you’re told… working out and eating well really does make you sleep better, gives you more energy and it feels good to do something that is solely for myself. I also call my mom about ten times a day and have a helpful husband and childcare.
My daughter giving me slobbery kisses, pulling the hair on both sides of my face to get my cheek as close as possible to hers, is absolutely euphoric. Truly, she is pure joy. I think any loving parent will tell you the highs always outweigh the lows. But man, the hormonal roller coaster in those early weeks postpartum… It’s a wild ride. Her birth was very traumatic, and I dealt with some PTSD because of it, which I hope to talk about more openly. And she was in the NICU the first few days of her life, then we had a 24-hour ER stay when she was a month old… It was a lot. Even our pediatrician still remarks on how traumatic that experience was. But man, do I feel like a fully strong and capable mother now because of it.
There are times in life when you can’t be afraid to jump then fall, as Taylor Swift sings. My career had kind of maxed out in Dallas by the time I was 30 and my agent had been talking to me for a while about trying to make a move to a network. Garrett and I met when he was on the campaign trail covering the Democratic candidates in 2019, and it was like an accelerant in my life. I moved to Washington when my contract was up. I was interviewing for jobs in the midst of the pandemic, presidential election and January 6th. I started at News Nation and one day in was asked to be the White House Correspondent. It’s been a massive learning curve and challenge and I’m obsessed with every aspect of my life now. It feels like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be — after years, a decade even, of fighting for this feeling. I just want to get better as a journalist and mom. What’s different is that I’m extremely focused on that now and everything else is superfluous.
I’ve told my friends who are expecting some advice I read somewhere in the canon of books and articles I read and podcasts I listened to in preparation of having a baby — I have two sources of authority, because there’s so much information out there. It can feel overwhelming. Tell yourself you’re going to trust and listen to advice from, for example, Moms on Call and your own mom, or your pediatrician and Emily Oster.
This question brings up a lump in my throat. It’s something I am so passionate about. And it’s shocking how disproportionate care is for women of color. They’re something like three times more likely to develop childbirth PTSD. I recently interviewed Dr. Sharon Dekel, a Harvard researcher, for a project I’m working on. She’s developing a tool to identify and diagnose PTSD in new moms much like the questionnaire for postpartum depression. The two are entirely different. She says there’s about 80% efficacy in identifying PTSD in a new mom if she shares a 300-word story of her birthing experience. It could be as easy as that. But maternal health is underfunded, under-researched and the statistics for maternal healthcare are moving in the wrong direction in this country. I think we are getting better, as a society, at talking about mental health and women’s reproductive issues are now at the forefront of our discussions politically. That awareness will create change.
I’ve never had one single mentor, but I’m constantly thinking of all the bits of advice I’ve learned from other anchors, reporters and photographers I’ve worked with in my career thus far. There are so many insightful, dedicated and talented people in this business. I’m also at a place in my career now where I’m stunned by the people working next to me — the intrepidity with which they shout questions at the president and how flawlessly they execute a live shot on something as convoluted and, frankly, boring as the debt ceiling. I’ve been an adjunct professor for the school of journalism at my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, and have met with many of the bright students who travel to Washington to cover the nation’s capital. As my mom says, I would have given my right arm to be where I’m at today, and I remember having that feeling when I was where they are.
As a working parent, I never expected leaving her would be so hard and feeling like myself again, although it took some time would be so much easier.