Drew Barrymore takes a deep breath. It’s been nine weeks since she gave birth to her daughter Olive, and the actress is enjoying a rare moment to herself at her home in L.A. Not that she’s minded the whirlwind of feedings and diaper changes, or what she describes as an obsession with making her newborn smile. “It’s like the biggest crush I’ve ever had in my life,” says the first-time mom. “I dance, I sing, I jump up and down. I do anything!” Wrapped in a cozy sweater with her hair loose, Barrymore, 37, laughs easily – and occasionally wipes away tears – as she talks about making a family with art consultant Will Kopelman, 35, whom she married in June. “This is a place where it feels right,” she says of sharing the first photos of Olive with People. “I was thinking back the other day to the many milestones I’ve had in this magazine. It was a very positive, introspective moment.” Looking back on her own tumultuous childhood, she knows all she has learned will benefit her daughter. “I’m ready to try to be the best parent I can be,” she says. “As life gets shorter, the stakes get higher. And this is the most important thing I will ever do.”So how are you feeling? You know, someone used the word “indescribable” and that was the first word that encompassed how it feels. You have the highest highs, and yet you’re facing the biggest fear of “How do I keep someone alive?” [Laughs] I have the word “breathe” [tattooed] on my forearm, but I feel like I need to add to it, “Are they breathing?”
Okay, let’s go back the beginning. How did you tell Will? I just sort of knew. I got this gut instinct and found out the way probably every other woman finds out. I called Will and said, “Where are you? You need to come home.” I feel like for most men that drive home is the my-life-is-never-going-to-be-the-same drive. We’ve been so happy since the news. On one level it’s so scary, and on the other level it’s like, “This is going to be awesome!”
Any morning sickness? I was nauseated all the time at first but hardly ever threw up. I lived on Saltines and club soda. Lived. But it got a lot better, and then I would sit with my little legs crossed and just eat. I wasn’t like, “Okay, you need to eat your carrots and blah-bity-blah.” I just had a total enjoyment of food.
Were there other hard parts? Oh, my back was killing me; I thought I was going to die. I could barely move toward the end of my pregnancy, and I was almost two weeks late. But I was Zen about it; I knew it was all happening for a reason.
Did you have any cravings? I got really into corn tamales, and I loved cheeseburgers. I wanted nothing to do with vegetables. And I love vegetables! And ice cream disgusts me, but all I wanted was Thrifty mint chip ice cream. [Laughs]
How much weight did you gain? About 40 lbs. I think I gained an extra five the last week because I was so late and like, “Forget it! All bets are off! I’ll have two cheeseburgers!”
What was it like the moment you first saw Olive? I mean, it’s positively the best moment of my life. My husband took a picture [her eyes well up], and I have that picture now forever, and it’s the coolest moment of my life, bar none. I look at it every day.
The best thing I can do for my daughter is be as brave and normal as I can be.
So what helped you most through those first weeks? I couldn’t exercise for a while, and if any new mother can, then I haven’t met them. I sort of rocked back and forth like a crazy person, like, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.” Because you care so much. I couldn’t eat or sleep for two weeks, I was just so nervous.
Whom do you guys think she looks like? I think she has your nose. I feel like from here to here [she frames the top half of her face with her hands] she’s Will, and from here to here [she frames the bottom half] she’s me. Those insane Kopelman eyes and my nose and lips.
Have you taken her out in public yet? No, I’m very protective of her right now. I know that unless we were to move into a bomb shelter that she will have to go out into the world and be exposed to a life that I’ve set up for myself for 37 years. I’m trying to figure out how to do things differently than I grew up. I know a lot of what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve got some really great blueprints of what not to do. I will have boundaries and consistency and protection and traditions.
How’s Will handling fatherhood? Will’s a great dad and a good husband. I really wanted a wonderful, traditional home for my kid. Will comes from a strong family, he provides a strong family [she tears up again], it’s amazing. For people who didn’t have the strongest families or traditional families, if you can create that, you have a second chance. It just makes me so emotional because it’s like a miracle.
Marriage and parenthood is a huge check on your ego. It’s really humbling.
You’ve been working on your new beauty line FLOWER (which debuts at Walmart in January). Have you thought about acting again and how you’ll balance it all? I can’t really imagine going to be someone else right now. I’ve been working on a project as a director and doing photography. And I’ve been cooking – I’ve never cooked before, but I didn’t want to be a mom who didn’t know how to cook for her kid!
And you’re exercising now – do you feel the pressure in Hollywood to lose the baby weight? Yes, I use it as the recipe of what not to do! My new motto is: Impossible expectations are impossible. Look, with my luck, I will starve myself, work out and then the next day get hit by a bus. And think [she waves her hands and yells] “Why did I waste my time doing that?” I’m the last person anyone should look at for workout tips. I don’t have them. I don’t care. [Laughs]
What do you most look forward to doing with Olive? I can’t wait to pick her up from school – just being in the line of cars when she gets out. I want her to live a life where she knows we will be there. That is everything to me. That is what I wanted most when I was a kid, and it’s what my kid will have.
So what’s your favorite time of day with her? No question, it’s when I wake her up. Her first smiles are just the greatest. And I’ll jump up and down and dance and sing as much as it takes to get those smiles.
I have a great partner in Will. You never take that for granted.
Article and photos copyright to People Magazine.
Transcribed by The Drewseum – please do not reproduce this content without permission.