I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Sonya Gavankar in March of this year at a local event, A Baby Affair. For those that don't know Sonya (as if), she serves as the face of the Newseum hosting a number of programming events at the venue. In addition she is an on-camera host for Let's Talk Live for NewsChannel 8.
During the event I had been asked to participate in an expert panel discussion on parenting. Umm...what the what. I was pretty nervous as I have never claimed to be an expert on anything much less parenting. As I scurried to my spot on the panel, Sonya immediately put me at ease. As Sonya asked questions she and I would laugh and some of my lighthearted (sarcastic) comments about the BEST way to prepare yourself for motherhood.
After the discussion ended, she and I chatted about birth methods, babies, endless fatigue, breastfeeding, etc. I, of course, screamed "TAKE THE DRUGS!". Sonya was roughly 5 months pregnant and was adorable in her non-maternity dress. Take that Kate Middleton! Over the past few months I have stayed in contact with Sonya. I have forwarded parenting articles, nursery ideas, etc. and we have kept in touch via social media.
Well...Sonya is finally ready to welcome her baby Bjorn (Sonya nicknamed her peanut Bjorn) at the end of July. Before I lost her to the baby gods, I wanted to catch up with Sonya and check in to see how life, pregnancy and pending motherhood is treating her.
1. Sonya you have an incredibly busy schedule these days. You are splitting your time between NewsChannel 8 and the Newseum as an on-camera host and moderator. With only 2 weeks until your baby is due, how are you keeping up with such an aggressive schedule?
Since I announced I was pregnant people warned me how my life would change (yeah no duh!) and how I would have to pull back. In a way, my exhaustion through the last 36 weeks has forced me to organize my schedule early. Nothing has changed other than I give myself more time to get to appointments and I don't do as much pro bono work. I listen to my body more and go to bed early on Sundays to set myself up for a successful week. I still push it too far sometimes. Last week I spent a little too long at a lunch at my husband's office, couldn't find parking at the studio so had to hustle to make a live shot. I got a bad cramp in my side. There I was HUGELY pregnant doubled over in the lobby smiling widely at everyone going by so they didn't think I was in labor.
2. Some readers might not be aware that you are a former Miss District of Columbia. What was it like to participate in the Miss America contest? So few women ever get that opportunity. Don’t leave out any details!
Competing at Miss America is surreal! I am a real tomboy and I suddenly found myself in this crazy world of spray tans and fake nails. I loved it and made some of my best friends through competition. The women who win at that level are very similar. We are Type A personalities with high goals and altruistic views of how we can effect positive change in the world. That being said, there are always some crazy stage moms and moments. We'll have a cocktail and I'll tell you lots more!
3. Change on a large scale will soon be coming with the arrival of baby Bjorn. How has pregnancy already changed your busy lifestyle?
Just to be clear, Bjorn is what we call the baby since we don't know if it’s a boy or girl. My husband is half Swedish and Bjorn means "little bear". I think people think we are actually calling the baby Bjorn. But I bet it sticks as a nickname.
I am not changing much in my life. I am going to see what kind of personality Bjorn has. I am a little neurotic and love over scheduling things and I am going to try to keep from doing that because raising a child is more important than any meeting I need to schedule. Still I am hoping Bjorn is a good sleeper so I can go back to my fun social life. I do miss my "skinny" clothes and look forward to seeing my feet again.
4. You have had an incredibly rich and diverse career in a short period of time. What advice would you give to aspiring newscasters and journalists?
My advice for aspiring journalists is to find your unique voice early. That means you must have lots of interests and be inquisitive. Especially those who want to be on TV think is all glamour, but it’s about being accurate when you chase the story.
5. What is one of your most memorable experiences in television?
I'm disappointed I don't have a dramatic answer to this! I am hoping my water breaks while on camera. I think that would be good TV!
6. You have been involved in a number of philanthropic pursuits including your long-term affiliation with the HOBY Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation. Can you tell us a bit more about the youth leadership organization?
HOBY is a great organization I am proud to be part of on so many levels. We offer free experiential leadership training to high school students. It starts with our freshman Community Leadership Workshops, then our flagship program of 3 day Sophomore Leadership Seminars and then Advanced Leadership Academies for upperclass students. Its run completely by volunteers and I went through the program as a 16 year old and am now part of the international team that helps guide the evolution of the programs. It’s wonderful to be able to impact future leaders in such a tangible way. Your student can go through the program, find out more at www.HOBY.org.
7. Let’s shift gears. Can you share some fun details about your nursery?
The most fun detail is that it’s a disaster! It contains a 10 year old IKEA computer table and all the babies things still in shipping boxes on the floor. Everything is just piled up in stacks by type. My mom arrives in 2 weeks. She is a Virgo and has a great sense of decorating so I am letting her do the whole thing. It’s my job to produce her grandchild, it’s hers to make the grandchild’s room stylish. The furniture is white and the bedding and such will be yellow with pops of primary colors. My mom did make me an AWESOME elephant mobile! Its currently hanging off the end of the glider.
8. You are mere weeks away from meeting Bjorn? Have you thought about that moment?
We had the hospital tour last week and as the doors to the maternity ward opened I looked at my husband and said “OH GEEZE! I just got really nervous!” I have been scared through the pregnancy but now I am nervous like before a big show. I can just imagine the strong bond I will feel between the baby and my husband and I and that is going to be overwhelming in such a powerful way. We are totally unprepared for a girl. We have no names so that means of course it will be a girl! I will try my hardest not to laugh when that happens.
9. From the moment I met you, it was evident that you were going to spend 9 months researching motherhood with the same fervor and tenacity that you would approach a critical news story. Can you share some of your discoveries?
I am so glad that is the image I give off! I think I haven’t researched as much as I normally would because I didn’t want to over think it and lose the emotional side of the experience. I do research every ache and pain and bump I feel along the way. I also research all the items fully before buying them. But I decided not to take a birthing class because I want to trust my body and be in the moment (that painful, painful moment). I am a classically trained opera singer so I feel like breathing I have down and I researched all the phases of labor. I am going to do my best to just be still so I can listen to my body and how it works and let it do its thing. That being said I also have no problem screaming at the top of my lungs for drugs in minute 5 of early contractions.
I have read every sleep book on the planet however! When I call you at 2 am in tears remind me of this interview.
So many thanks to Sonya! To find out even more about Sonya visit:
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