As Dr. Jo Wilson on ABC’s hit show “Grey’s Anatomy,” Camilla Luddington is used to challenges. Her character is embroiled in a heart-wrenching drama on the show, and she sometimes pulls 15-hour shifts on set. But even Luddington isn’t immune to the mind-boggling exhaustion that comes with pregnancy.
“Usually when I film something very emotional I walk away tired,” says the English actress, who will welcome her first child with longtime love Matthew Alan in April. “Now that I’m pregnant, it’s a new level of exhaustion. I need to sleep off a scene for a week after filming with Justin [Chambers].”
Her character isn’t pregnant, so producers have hidden Luddington’s bump with lab coats and strategically placed iPads.
Fortunately, there are plenty of laughs on set to put extra pep in her step; if you haven’t seen her and Ellen Pompeo’s spoof on Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement you’ve got to watch it.
Recently, the 33-year-old star took a break from her busy schedule to chat with us about her labor and delivery fears, going through pregnancy without her mom, her birth plan, and more.
MT: You’ve been working throughout your pregnancy. Any challenges beyond the exhaustion?
CL: I suffered from severe morning sickness for the first six months, and I ended up throwing up in the middle of a scene we were shooting. I thought, ‘Oh my God! People are going to think I’ve come into work hungover!’ So, even though it was very early on and I was keeping my pregnancy a secret, I felt like I needed to go to Shonda [Rhimes, the show’s creator] and tell her I was pregnant.
MT: What did Shonda say when you shared your pregnancy news?
CL: Shonda is a huge advocate for women being able to work and have families, so she was happy for me. She said that she loved ShondaLand babies and that if I needed anything to let her know.
MT: Have any of the storylines about pregnancy on “Grey’s” this season freaked you out?
CL: The episode where we were caring for a pregnant inmate at a maximum-security prison was very difficult for me to film. Leading up to the scene where the inmate has given birth and she’s talking to her daughter before giving her up, I told myself, ‘OK, Jo has to be a strong person in that moment and a doctor to lean on. She wouldn’t let her emotions get the best of her.’ But, during filming, I kept turning away from the camera because I was crying. I couldn’t help it! Also, I wasn’t part of it, but the episode where the lady was in labor in an Uber and her legs were crushed during an accident was really stressful to watch, too!
MT: Are you worried about getting stuck in traffic while in labor?
CL: Yes—I have so many anxieties. I’ve created all of these different scenarios in my head. There’s this one where I go into labor at 5 p.m. in Los Angeles. It can take hours to get anywhere in LA at that time. So I’ll, like, give birth on the 405 and there will be a Star Tours bus going by and I’ll be trying to act all calm…[laughs]. At our hospital they tell you to walk around and go see a movie when your contractions start, but they don’t realize that’s absolutely not my plan. As soon as there’s a sort of twinge that could mean I’m going into labor I’ll be in the car, on the way to the hospital.
MT: Have you written a birth plan?
CL: If I get a paper cut I’m in bed for an hour, so I know I would like an epidural. One of my girlfriends described it as birthday drugs. And she was like, ‘Get all the birthday drugs you can get!’
MT: Have you been nesting a lot?
CL: Yes, and it’s reached a level of obsession. My own closet is a complete disaster. There are clothes everywhere, there’s no organization to it whatsoever. My daughter’s closet, on the other hand, is completely color coded and everything is organized. I’m constantly going on Instagram for inspiration. My boyfriend is like, ‘Maybe relax for a second.’ I could literally spend years in there redecorating and having a brand new vibe in there every day. I’m just so excited for her to arrive!
MT: Did you always imagine that you’d be a girl mom?
CL: No—I always imagined that I would have a son! And then when I was 19 my mum passed away and I had this hole in my heart. The image changed in my head to having a daughter and I realized, ‘Oh, I’m craving that relationship.’ Even though I realized that it would be me being the mum and her being the daughter. And then when I did get pregnant I knew I was having a girl. I think you end up having what you’re supposed to have and the baby is in your life to teach you something.
MT: Has it been difficult going through pregnancy without your mom?
CL: Yes, I miss her a lot. One of the things that I’ve found hard is I haven’t been able to pick up the phone and talk to her about her experiences while pregnant. During my first trimester, I was so shocked by the exhaustion and the nausea, and I had nose bleeds. I had this idyllic image of me doing yoga every day and looking so chic, and that hasn’t been the case at all. I really wish that I could have called my mum about that stuff.
MT: Are there any traditions from your childhood that you want to carry on for your daughter?
CL: My mum wanted us to believe in Santa for as long as possible. She never told us that we had to go to bed early so Santa would come. She was the total opposite! She would come in and if we were awake she would say, ‘Oh thank god you guys are awake! We’ve got to stay up for Santa.’ One thing that we did that made me feel like I was in the Goonies was we would booby trap our house to catch Santa. So we would put trip wire, which was really string, across the bottom of our door so that when he’d come into our room he’d trip and we’d see him. Or my mum would string silverware together and she would put it on our front door, because we didn’t have a chimney, so when he opened the door it would slip off and make a loud noise and we’d all wake up and meet Santa. It was just this really fun evening and we thought that maybe we’d get to see Santa. And she was in cahoots with us on it. So I’d like to keep up the tradition of booby trapping my house on Christmas Eve.
MT: Last Q before we let you go: How do you think Matthew will handle having a little girl?
CL: He has always wanted a daughter. I think there is just something very special about a daddy and a daughter relationship. I’m worried for him, though. I think he’s going to be an emotional mess and she’ll be able to wrap him around her finger very easily!