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To Breed or Not to Breed, That Is the Question

It wasn't something I'd asked myself until the day my partner, Mark, and I found out we were pregnant. We'd met doing a play in Chicago and had navigated the first two years of coupledom when the stick turned pink. If my life had been scored with sound effects, this would be the place to insert the scratch of the arm being dragged across the record. 

I'm going to be a huh?

That moment launched a serious re-evaluation. Me: a mother? But I'm an actress. What about the career I'd worked so hard to build?  What about our plan to move to L.A.? Then again, less loudly—but still audible through the haze in my hormone-addled brain—wouldn't it be fun to have big breasts for once in my life? After a period of deep (and sometimes painful) introspection by both of us, Mark and I decided that three we would be.

For a while it was business as usual.  The move to L.A. was postponed, temporarily. I worked on a feature, and the director had just had a baby. When I shared my news, he was thrilled. New parents, I've found, are always eager to see more of us entering their secret, sleep-deprived society. It makes them feel less alone. I went on to do two plays, the second of which closed when I was eight months pregnant. Motherhood wasn't going to stop me.

Wyatt Finn Puette St. Amant was born Dec. 1, 1999. I was still eager to get to Los Angeles, but when you're breastfeeding 22 hours a day, it's tough to pack. We set our sights to move in the fall of 2000 and surrendered to the gravitational pull of our son. We didn't sleep, fought a bit more than usual, and stared at Wyatt for hours on end. We tag-teamed everything; Mark became an expert at all of the important things all good parents have to do and did them all without complaining. It became clearer than ever that I had a very good man at my side.

About three months after Wyatt was born, two directors I'd worked with before my pregnancy offered me plum roles at great theatres. After struggling with the decision, I turned them both down. Motherhood had stopped me. My career was finished; I was sure of it.  I thought, "This little person who I love utterly will always need me too much. Nothing will ever be the same."  Turns out I was only right about the second part.

By the time August rolled around, Wyatt was crawling, and we were packing. Mark and I crossed the country separately, he in a moving van packed with everything we owned, me on a plane with a restless 8-month-old and a freaked-out cat.

We slowly found our way out here. You start over when you move to a new city, much like you start over when you become a mother. Not everything that you'd been or done in one place transfers to the next. We spent the first couple of years acclimating to this new place, being a family, and making friends. And while I missed acting terribly sometimes, that settling-in period was essential to who we all would become in this city and in our lives together. It allowed me time to be a mother to my very young child, and for that I feel very lucky. Wyatt will never be tiny again, but he was once, and I was there.

Wyatt's 7 now, and I'm happy to report that I haven't yet seen the end of my career.

-- Deborah Puette

Deborah Puette lives with her family in North Hollywood, Calif.  She's currently starring in Tryst at the Black Dahlia Theatre and will next be seen in the Weinstein Co./Frank Marshall feature Crossing Over with Sean Penn and Harrison Ford. 

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