Ep. 335 – Natalie Dreyfuss: Before Birth – The Informed Pregnancy Podcast
Elliot: Welcome to the Informed Pregnancy and Parenting Podcast. I'm your host, pregnancy-focused chiropractor, Dr. Elliot Berlin.
My guest today is a TV actress who has battled endometriosis. She’s now pregnant and expecting her first baby very soon. We’re going to talk about career, endometriosis, pregnancy plans for birth. And, I’m super curious about a condition that she has called aphantasia which has some similarities to my weird prosopagnosia. Stay tuned. Natalie Dreyfuss, welcome to the podcast.
Natalie: Hi! I’m so excited to be here.
Elliot: I’m so excited you’re having contractions.
Natalie: I know. It caught me on a good day.
Elliot: On a crampy day. Amazing. We’re going to get into everything. Well, let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from originally?
Natalie: I am from Los Angeles.
Elliot: Did you leave and come back, or are you still here?
Natalie: I’m still here.
Elliot: You didn’t travel around.
Natalie: No. I’m a rare native.
Elliot: Seriously. First of all, I thought everybody was a transplant. But I have been to the East, the North, the South, Midwest. I like it here best.
Natalie: Yeah. I’m definitely not attached to it. I would be happy to live somewhere else eventually. But it’s interesting to be born in LA and raised in LA. Strange town.
Elliot: And watch everybody [unin]?
Natalie: Yeah. It’s like being out of a city of broken dreams. I was just in it. I was just placed here. I didn’t come here. It’s an interesting place to grow up.
Elliot: You were cast in this dream.
Natalie: Yeah. It’s a little bit of like a lonely city.
Elliot: You act. How did you get into that?
Natalie: I’ve avoided it as long as I could really. When you’re from LA, I think you make that choice pretty early to either stay far away or get into it. I was a ballerina growing up, and then I actually taught preschool for a little while. And then, I missed performing art. So, a friend said, “You should take an acting class. It’s really fun. You love games. It’s a bunch of games.” I was like, “Ugh! No.” But, I did and I ended up really falling in love with it. It was so different for me than ballet was. It was just as unique as you can be. That’s the best way to go.
Elliot: And your feet could be flat on the ground.
Natalie: Yeah. It’s not a torture chamber. Ballet was just like you have to fit this mold and you’re never going to fit it, and acting’s the opposite. I got pretty hooked. It was later in my life. That was 21, 22.
Elliot: That’s how I feel about airline seats.
Natalie: How do you feel about airline seats?
Elliot: It’s like you have to fit this mold and you’re never going to fit it.
Natalie: Right. That is ballet.
Elliot: So much in common. Did you start ballet a little, little?
Natalie: I did, yeah. I was in ice skating first. I was probably 5. And then, into ballet.
Elliot: Ice skating.
Natalie: Yeah. I chose all these strange solo sports.
Elliot: Especially, from Los Angeles. It doesn’t seem so native.
Natalie: Yeah. But, I was oddly graceful as a kid. I would win the competitions and stuff, and found myself in dance. I think about now, I’m like, “What a weird kid.” I just had this longing and grace for a 5-year-old, 7-year-old. I was like, “What is that?” Just falling in love with classical music and just this bittersweetness of this child, I don’t know. It’s so interesting to think about as an adult, but I got really far in that career and took it too seriously. And then, once I was injured, I danced on that injury for a long time. Eventually, it was, “Okay. No one’s happy here. I got to get out of here.” But, I had dedicated–
Natalie: Yeah. I dedicated so much of myself to ballet that I had no real education. I dropped out of everything. And so, I just always loved babies. I went to a preschool, walked in, and was, “I’m great at this. Can I just be here for a couple years?” They were like, “No. That’s not how this works.” But, they let me be a TA for a while and I started hanging out with the kids. I feel they really saved me.
Elliot: It’s probably mutual.
Natalie: Yeah. I hope so. I hope those kids remember me. I’ve just always been sure about wanting kids and feeling like that was what I was meant to do.
Elliot: First of all, do you watch ballet, or do you appreciate other people doing ballet, or you enjoyed doing it yourself?
Natalie: It’s pretty painful, honestly. Because it was just such a traumatic life and there was so much that went into that. Really, I couldn’t get back into a ballet class as an adult. I couldn’t really enjoy it anymore. So, watching it is kind of like, “Oh, it hurts a little bit.” But, I’ve got to do some ballet on my series that I work on. Once I found out that I could do it, they kind of wrote it into my character. So, that was the first time that those two worlds had collided, which is really cool.
Elliot: Yeah. My ice skating world collided with a lot of people.
Natalie: Oh, I bet.
Elliot: I did not have fun memories of ice skating. Okay. So, you take an acting class. So, curious what kind of games. Was there anyone that sticks out in your head that was like, “That was a fun game,” or a purposeful exercise?
Natalie: In acting class?
Natalie: Oh, my gosh! There’s so many. I still, to this day, get so addicted to games like catchphrases or code names. Where you’re on a team, when you’re working together, and you get to play in each other’s mind. You’re like, “Oh, I bet this person thinks like that. I’m going to preemptively decide how to get them to say what I want them to say or affect them in a certain way.” There was a lot of games like that in acting class.
Elliot: Hmm. Sounds like you could be on “Survivor.”
Natalie: It just felt so fun. I don’t know physically, but mentally.
Elliot: Mentally. There should be “Mental Survivor.”
Natalie: I don’t know that you or I are equipped for that, but try.
Elliot: I don’t know, but I’m definitely not equipped for the other “Survivor.”
Natalie: Me either.
Elliot: From those classes, how did you get your start and build your way up?
Natalie: Because I was born here and born around this business, I just had a good attitude about it. I didn’t really want anything from it. I didn’t crave fame, or success, or any of that. Auditioning, it just put me in a good position where I really was, “I’m good at this, so take it or leave it.” I came in with a lot of confidence because there wasn’t a lot to lose for me. I really just knew I wanted to be a mom, and that this was kind of a way to make money to do that, and I enjoy it. I enjoy it for reasons that are probably different than other actresses.
Elliot: Ooh, do tell.
Natalie: I like the teamwork part. I like being on a set, and being a really great teammate. Where I fall on the team, I don’t care that much. If it’s in front of the camera or not, or directing, or whatever it is, I just like to be a really great cog in the mechanism of making something with a bunch of people. I like to bring a lot of really positive, really grateful happy energy to a set because all sets could use it. So, anyone that’s worked with me knows me as the girl that is happy to be there.
Elliot: The positive one.
Natalie: Appreciative. It’s like, “Oh, good. The girl that likes to be here is coming today. Great!”
Elliot: I was happy around craft services. But outside of that — I was a theater major. Anytime we had a production, I loved two things about it. One is that puzzle piece. You’re a piece of a puzzle. You’re a piece of an orchestra. One musician has a bad note, one instrument goes south, the whole well-tuned orchestra sounds funky. And then, also the live audience, their response. The interplay with the live audience was, for me, that was almost therapeutic. Having that instant gratification.
Natalie: Yeah, me too. I fell in love with multicamera comedies, because they’re live audience. And so, it was the best of both worlds.
Elliot: Oh, yes.
Natalie: Television, but live. It was so fun. That was always my dream was to continue on that path. I mean, after COVID, we’ll see what that looks like. But, that’s where I really shine.
Elliot: That’s a win-win. I didn’t even think about that.
Natalie: Oh, it’s so fun. It’s the best schedule, too. It’s such a fun schedule because you’re rehearsing all week, and then you shoot on Fridays. It’s just like a big play every Friday. And then, you drink and have fun afterwards, and then do it all again on Monday. It’s a good time.
Elliot: You’re selling it well, I’m going to say that, Natalie. Okay. So, you’ve always wanted to have kids. Now, it sounds like your wish is coming true here in the not-too-distant future. Where’s your partner from? How did you guys meet?
Natalie: I found a lovely Canadian man. Yeah, I love Canadians. We met 10 or 12 years ago, and then we started dating six years ago. On our first date, we went and had a drink together. I knew he was a writer. He sat down and started telling me how much he wanted kids, and how much family meant to him, and how this business doesn’t really mean anything to him. I just did not buy any of it. I was like, “You’re such a writer. Who told you my story? Are you selling me right now?” I did not buy it. He’s handsome and sweet, and Canadian. I was like, “What is going on? Who is this? This is going to be a problem.” And so, I brought in reinforcements. I was like, “Guys, come meet this guy. This makes no sense. I think he’s lying about everything.” Or he’s the perfect person, I don’t know.
Elliot: To find mine.
Natalie: Yeah. It was really scary. I have dated in LA for too many years to fall for this. We laugh about it all the time. Because, now, we’re having this little baby girl and we talk about that date a lot, and how much we spoke about this on that day.
Elliot: On your first date?
Natalie: Yeah. It was our first date. We talked so much about having babies together. Not necessarily together, but what it meant for each of us.
Elliot: That you each wanted to have children.
Natalie: Yeah. That it was number one. In LA, you don’t really hear that. Everyone looks at me like I have two heads because I care more about having a family than a career. But, I get in other parts of the world that’s not crazy, but Los Angeles it is. So, I just couldn’t believe I’d met a man who felt this way. Every other guy I dated had said a lot of stuff like, “Yeah, yeah. One day, I’ll totally want that.” I’m like, “Okay. Well, you’re 45. So, let me know when you are ready.” I think it was really meant to be that I ended up with this person that cares so much about this. The pregnancy has been so fun because he’s made it so fun.
Elliot: I have to meet him. He’s sweet.
Natalie: Yeah. He’s a really classically Canadian nice person.
Elliot: I can’t stop saying, but does he say “aye”?
Natalie: Oh, yeah. I say it now. Well, he’s French Candian. But he doesn’t say, “a boot.” But he does say, we both go, “Oh, that’s crazy!”
Elliot: Alright. So then, since six years ago, you had this conversation about having kids. Did you plan when you were going to have kids?
Natalie: Yeah. We actually went through a breakup right before the pandemic, which I didn’t think we would make it back from. And, 2020, man! It just changed me, changed all of us. My life really just took a weird turn for the last couple of years. It was super, super challenging. We broke up in November of 2019. By the time March came around, nothing really dramatic happened between us. It was just a decision. And then, we both were like, “So, we’re going to be there for each other, right?”
During this, we live five minutes away from each other. We’re not going to not take care of each other. So, we spent a lot of time together in the pandemic just making sure we were in a bubble. Who do you want to watch movies with? It’s the person you’ve been watching movies with for three years and feel comfortable with. I really feel like it brought us to a different place in our relationship. But, I was traveling a lot because I was shooting in Canada. I did five 14-day quarantines. So, I did two and a half months in a room by myself.
Elliot: Per exposure?
Natalie: Yeah. Because every time you go to Canada, you have to quarantine 14 days.
Elliot: You have to quarantine? Oh, wow!
Natalie: In a hotel room. You can’t open the windows, can’t open the door. They leave food at your doorstep and walk away. Mentally, it really broke me. It actually broke me.
Elliot: Fourteen days is a long time.
Natalie: Yeah. I know. And five of them? It was intense. And so, I really felt like I needed comfort so much when I was home and I was scared of everybody. I had this autoimmune disease. I took it really seriously. I was also working, and so grateful to be working. So, I was completely isolated. He agreed to really isolate with me. We took it very, very seriously. It really brought us together, and put us on this new path towards eventually having this conversation of, “Are we ready to try and have a baby?” We had that conversation, and this little miracle showed up.
Elliot: I love the silver linings.
Natalie: Yeah. It was a crazy path, honestly. I listened to your podcast so much. Seems you took my phone and saved a bunch of episodes. I got super addicted to this podcast. I just loved it. I started listening to a bunch of my friends have been on it. It’s a small town. I just kept thinking, I’m like, “Wow! What is my story? When he asks me, ‘How did I get here?'” I just started thinking about the last couple of years, and this path to this baby, and wow! It was interesting to think about what I was going to say when you asked me. I haven’t really reflected on it too much because it’s all happening so quickly.
Elliot: Oh, I love it in real-time.
Natalie: Yeah. It happened definitely in real-time. Just hearing other people’s stories and their paths to pregnancy, and what this has been so far even before this baby gets here. How much it’s changed everything. I’ve done a lot of reflecting in the last couple of days.
Elliot: I’m glad I can help.
Elliot: What were you shooting in Canada?
Natalie: I work on a show called, “The Flash.”
Elliot: Barry Allen.
Natalie: Barry Allen.
Elliot: It’s all my 12-year-old talks about.
Natalie: That’s so sweet.
Elliot: Barry Allen. Barry Allen. He got everybody in our family to watch “The Flash.” Not just an episode. He would sit down even for the ninth time of Season 1, Episode 1 with a family member who’s visiting from another town, and be like, “You got to watch Flash with me.” Watch all those episodes all over again until they were all caught up.
Natalie: That’s awesome.
Elliot: So, at least, something came out of your five 14-day quarantines.
Natalie: Yeah. I really worked hard for this job.
Elliot: He appreciates you.
Natalie: Yeah. It was a really great experience. They’re done now. I wasn’t able to make it for the final season, but I am so super grateful for all the time I got to spend with them. It’s a great show to be on.
Elliot: I hope somebody else was the cheerful person after you left.
Natalie: I know. They know me as the person that loves to be there.
Elliot: Alright. Now, let’s take a break. When we come back, we’re going to find out about your pregnancy. We’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back. We are talking to Natalie Dreyfuss. Very pregnant. Beyond 37 weeks. So, in the zone. Could happen any minute. Well, let’s start at the beginning. You have endometriosis. When did you find out about that?
Natalie: I’ve always had a really tough GI system, and it’s been called lots of things over the years. But, I have struggled a lot of autoimmune stuff and been to a million different doctors and specialists. It was a weird one because it’s invisible and very hard to diagnose. It took a long time to get a formal diagnosis. And, really the only way to do that is to open you up in the core.
And so, my plan was always to wait until six months before I was going to try to get pregnant before I did that surgery. I ended up not having to do that. I was able to get pregnant and much, much faster than I thought I would be able to. We tried once and she showed up. I could not believe that. My whole life, I just thought this is going to be a huge long journey for me and I was really prepped for that, and that is not what happened. I feel like, “Oh my God!” Miracles showed up. That’s so crazy.
Elliot: What were your endometrial symptoms like?
Natalie: Really severe chronic pain, daily pain. Not just like menstrual pain. There’s two days a month where I really can’t move during my cycle. I have what I believe to be endo on my colon. And so, it causes extreme motility, and spasms, and cramping. Really fun symptoms every day. It kind of mirrors stuff like Crohn’s, and colon cancers, and stuff, but I’ve been scoped for all that stuff a million times. The only difference is it’s every day. There’s not flare-ups. I’ve been on a lot of medications and I’ve tried a million different healing modalities.
Eventually, in the last couple years, I took a real left turn and started doing some somatic stuff and trauma stuff, and finally started looking into that. I do feel like there was some really beautiful stuff that came out of that.
I’ve gotten to live the last nine months with no endo. It is the best I can eat whatever I want. No pain. It’s the coolest experience to just have a normal life for a couple nine months.
Elliot: Your pregnancy is helping with the symptoms.
Natalie: Yeah. It’s amazing.
Elliot: Maybe this is why you didn’t realize but, internally, you always wanted to have a lot of babies.
Natalie: I think there’s probably many reasons, but that’s definitely one.
Elliot: Contributing factor.
Natalie: Yeah. Being able to eat is a real bonus.
Elliot: I mean, I’m really glad that you — I guess, the opposite of the typical reputation that pregnancy gets is making you achy and uncomfortable. For you, it’s the opposite.
Natalie: Yeah. I think I didn’t realize what my life would be without endo. And so, being able to experience it for the past nine months has just been so transformative.
Elliot: Would surgery be at all corrector for you?
Natalie: The surgeries are tough. You can remove. It does grow back. It’s abdominal surgery, which takes quite a while to recover from. I was playing a superhero on TV, like in a tight suit. There wasn’t a lot of abdominal surgery time to recover. And then, after it grows back, it’s only a few months of relief.
They say that pregnancy can have lasting positive effects, and it’s different for every person. There’s just not enough information about it. Basically, I just want to be pregnant forever.
Elliot: Are there certain things — I mean, now, you’re at the very end. But, highlights about the pregnancy about things that you felt and things that your body has done or changes that took place that are highlights for you either on the ups or down highlights?
Natalie: Yeah. I made this decision that getting pregnant and staying pregnant was going to be a huge challenge in my life, and I braced for this huge challenge for years and years. And, to make this decision to try and to have this happen on my first try and come so easily and come so quickly and stay with me and make it past that 12-week mark, I just feel like miracles happen. You just don’t know what you’re bracing for. I was so convinced that I was on this really tough path and I’m trying to really keep that with me before this labor and before being a parent is just like you don’t know. You don’t know what’s coming and you don’t know what to be bracing for and you can’t predict how good things can just show up for you.
Elliot: It’s really sweet to hear. Maybe a reward from the universe for all your positivity on set.
Natalie: I do bring a lot of positivity. I’m like, “Guys! There’s free food here. What are you so mad about? Let’s have a good day.”
Elliot: I could see it not being as boring with your energy there. Okay. What kind of things have you been doing to take care of yourself mind, body otherwise during your pregnancy?
Natalie: I’ve met a really amazing group of people. Yourself included. In this world of birth and labor, and all these practitioners, it’s such a cool world. I got to you through Britta Bushnell, who’s been such an amazing little angel throughout my pregnancy journey.
Elliot: “Transformed by Birth.”
Natalie: Yeah. I love her book so much. I got really overwhelmed at the very beginning of my pregnancy with how much information. I just had never really researched pregnancy and birth. I was like, “Oh my God! Where do I start?” Someone in a mommy group said, “You should read Britta’s book. I think it’s really a nice middle ground of making you feel like you’re not going to set yourself up to be disappointed or fail in some way, if like there’s a certain way you get attached to wanting to do this.”
I think, to take care of myself mentally and spiritually, I have really followed that path and really wanted to just give myself the opportunity to be transformed by this birth, and meet some incredible people on the way through chiropractic like you, or pelvic floor therapy, or my incredible doctor, and I have to become birth obsessed. It’s a rabbit hole. You get sucked in. And then, I’ve been listening to your podcasts and stuff. It’s just so fun. I feel it’s going to be such a big part of my life forever now.
Elliot: Well, I think you attract things from the universe. It happens to be in Los Angeles where pretty tight-knit — I feel like we’re pretty tight-knit in the birth community. I just feel super blessed to work with colleagues that are so good at what they do and so dedicated to what they do, and so into the process, and then make a living at it versus how can I milk some money out of it. Britta has been on the podcast a couple of times and her episodes are so popular. Even people who had never met her. Just the pearls of wisdom that she has from her depth of background in so many different areas. And then, your OB is also a friend of mine. She’s wonderful. How did you guys connect?
Natalie: I was actually with a different OB and I had a pretty scary experience, and I just felt really dropped. I felt like I’ve been through a lot of medical trauma stuff. I really followed my instincts and was like, “You know what? I know I’m 32 weeks into this, but this just isn’t the right place for me. I need to find something else.” And, it’s hard to find someone at 32 weeks. Nobody wants to start seeing you.
So, I called everyone I knew and I asked Britta for help to find a new OB. When I met Dr. Perlow, I just knew right away that this was going to not only change my birth experience but also my endo experience. She’s an incredible woman that cares so much about women’s care, and she taught me a lot about advocating for myself. She was really proud of me for leaving and being ballsy about it, and just knowing that that wasn’t the right doctor for me. I’m standing up for myself. I got pretty mad at this. I definitely stood up for myself, and was like, “This isn’t okay. You can’t treat people like this,” and walked away. So happy it was like this weirdly dramatic experience, but it brought me to this incredible woman. I just feel like she’s going to be in my life forever.
Elliot: I feel like if ever you had to switch at 32 weeks, Dr. Perlow’s amazing to switch to. Because she’s so available and spends so much time with you. Anyway, that it’s not like you’re only going to spend five minutes a week with her.
Natalie: I know. She’s taking care of me like I’ve never felt in my life.
Elliot: When I met you, your baby was not head down.
Natalie: She was breeched.
Elliot: She was breech. When did you find out about the breech?
Natalie: I was breech at 34 weeks. It turned out that’s why I was having pre-term labor contractions. And, when I got to Dr. Perlow, she knew right away. She was like, “Your baby’s breech.” Why didn’t they catch this? And so, basically, she took it really seriously right away and wanted me to do all the Spinning Baby stuff, and come see you. I took it really seriously and was trying everything I could to help her turn. And then, seeing you, I was so grateful because you really put my mind at ease that she was going to do it. They were like, “I believe she’s going to do it.” I was like, “Oh, I hope she does.” And then, I saw you one time and she turned the next day.
Elliot: Oh, that’s amazing! I would never say that if I didn’t think it was true, but just all the different factors that you had going on in your particular case really seemed like she was going to end up head down. I’m really glad for you that she’s in your back on track.
Natalie: Yeah. It’s also just changed my back problems so much. I didn’t realize how hard it was to carry her around when she was breech. It’s hard now for different reasons.
Elliot: The pressure is someplace else.
Elliot: Okay. Let’s take a little break. When we come back, we’ll talk about your intentions for birth, but also this crazy thing called aphantasia. We’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back to the Informed Pregnancy Podcast. We are talking to Natalie Dreyfuss. Okay. You’re going to have your baby in a minute. But, right before you do that, let’s talk about this. We’re having a conversation and I don’t even know exactly how it came up. You’re like, “Oh, I have aphantasia.” I’m like, “What is that?” And, you tell me what it is, and I thought I was weird because I have prosopagnosia, which means I’m face blind. I can never picture somebody’s face in my mind. I can’t describe it. Every time I see a face, it’s a new one every time. And then, you tell me, “Oh! Well, this is what aphantasia is.” What’s aphantasia?
Natalie: Aphantasia is a blind mind’s eye. It’s the inability to conjure images.
Elliot: Right. First of all, how did you even realize you have it? Because who knows that you’re not seeing things the way other people are when they close their eyes and try to imagine.
Natalie: Yeah. It definitely is something I had no idea. I was living this totally unique human experience until I think two years ago. I saw it on social media. It was going around like a test. It was a really simple test. It just said, “Picture a purple apple.” And then, it started asking you questions about what you were seeing. Whether it was the shade of it, or if there’s light hitting it. I was like, “What are you talking about?” I’ve never seen a purple apple. I know purple and I know apple, but I can’t bring up an image of those things and then describe it to you. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And, they showed a graph of things you might see and there’s a huge spectrum, and mine is an abyss. I see black. I see nothing.
So, I started to look into what this meant. I was like, “I really think that this makes a lot of sense for who I am.” So many parts of my life start to fall into place. It’s such a weird thing because it really is a unique human experience. You had mentioned to me. You were like, “Yeah. I have face blindness.” I was, “I have mind’s eye blindness. I love weird neurological things. Let’s talk about it.” It’s so fascinating.
Elliot: Yes. Must be serious at some point. We must do a series on this. Here’s what’s crazy though. You told me about it, and I was so fascinated. Because I’ve spent the past — now, it’s about 10 years since I know about my face blindness. Just telling people about it, and they’re always like, “Oh, tell me more. It’s so fascinating and curious.” I’ve seen people diagnosed after having a conversation with them because they had no idea what it was and they said same face blindness is about 1.5%. So, 1.5 out of every 100 people might have it. It’s also a spectrum. Aphantasia seems actually a little bit more common, more like 4 or 5%.
I was just so fascinated. I went home. I was sitting by my computer, and I was reading all about it. It was like, “Picture a rainbow,” and I closed my eyes and I’m like, “Okay.” All these other things, I was like, “Yeah. I can do that.” And then, I was like, “Wait a second. Can I do that?” I didn’t realize until I had to hold up a bottle of Aquafina in front of my face, look at it, see it, and then close my eyes and try to visualize it. I realized I have the abyss. I just have like a black screen with little shades of lighter darkness moving around, but I don’t see that bottle at all. I can describe it. I can tell you the label, roughly how much of the bottle the label takes up the shades of the color on there. But, it’s a logical description. It’s not a visual description. I’m not describing what I’m seeing. I’m describing what I know the bottle to be.
And now, I’ve taken a bunch of people — literally, since meeting you and you’re telling me that, I’ve taken at least 100 people. I’m like, “Close your eyes. Picture a rainbow. Can you see the rainbow? Do you see the colors? What’s the second color down? Can you turn the rainbow upside down? Now, it’s on its back. What’s the second color down now from the top?” And, some people just see it. You can tell in living color, like the highest 4K, whatever. They can see everything. You could ask them to pivot three degrees to the right, and they can tell you what that looks like. Some people grasp with it. Some people see real rainbows. Some people see cartoon rainbow. But then, I do your test, about the purple apple, and then you can really tell. People like, “Wait a second. I’m not seeing the apple.” And just describing the apple, it’s really interesting. The diagnosis only came around like 10 years ago or something like that.
Natalie: There’s not a lot of research about it. But, they have some really interesting TED Talks about it. It does go hand in hand with face blindness quite often, which is why I thought of it when you said that. I was like, “Oh, I have this thing.” And, sometimes, it goes hand in hand with face blindness. I don’t have face blindness, but I couldn’t describe my mother’s face too. Like, I know it. I know that she has blue eyes and white hair, and I could describe her to you. But, it’s not because I’m conjuring the image of my mom. And then, just looking at it and describing that image to you.
Elliot: You’re dealing with your mom what I do with the Aquafina bottle.
Natalie: Yeah. I mean, that was one of the tests I found online. It was, “Picture someone’s face that you should know inside and out,” like have no problem bringing up an image of because you stare at it all the time. And then, they ask you like, “Which direction is it facing?” It just gets me every time because I’m like, “No direction, what?”
Elliot: Yeah. It’s weird. It’s right there, it’s just–
Natalie: I don’t know. It’s just there. I’m like, people have Netflix in their heads. They go to sleep at night, they close their eyes, and they have Netflix in their head. I’m so jealous. I’m so mad that I see an abyss.
Elliot: You’re a dreamer.
Natalie: I do dream. It’s interesting. Because your mind is hungry for images. So, when you dream, you do see a bunch of images. It’s just in your waking life, when you’re trying to conjure an image, you’re not able to do that. It’s really weird and it affects me, specifically in really specific ways that I always just felt a lot of shame around. I was telling you I get lost all the time, I don’t have a mental map. Because I can’t picture the route home until it’s there. I’m driving up to it, I’m like, “Is it left?” Just weird stuff like that. I’m a very on-it, responsible girl. So, it’s weird to me that I’m lost all the time, or that I can’t seem to ever stay organized when I really want to. But a drawer is my nemesis. I close a drawer and it’s like, “Well, who knows what’s in there until we open it again.”
Elliot: You can’t picture what’s in the drawer?
Natalie: Right? You have to kind of memorize–
Elliot: How it’s laid out?
Natalie: Yeah. Things like labels are such a relief. Like, “Ah, put a label on it.”
Elliot: There’s some kind of agnosia there for you, too. Topographical agnosia. Like, Oliver [unin]. He didn’t have GPS, so he could never figure out how to get home unless he took the same exact route every single time.
Natalie: Oh, yeah. I definitely have some of that. What’s weird is that I told my mom this and she was like, “This makes a lot of sense about you.” And she also said, “What did you think directors were doing?” You’ve been in this business for a long time, “What did you think directors were doing?” I was like, “I genuinely thought they were just getting a bunch of people together that are good at their department, and then saying I basically want something like this. And then, just seeing what happens.” She was like, “What? No, they see it in their heads and they get people that are good at that thing, and they put them together so they can have these images come to life.” I’m like, “What?!” That’s insane. Because to me, I was just like, “Oh, get someone that’s great at lighting. And then, explain to them what you want the feel of the film to be. And then, see what they do.”
Elliot: Wow! We launched this platform, Informed Pregnancy Plus, with video and films and content also in the same demographic as our podcast. But, one of the things I’m putting together is a library of guided imagery meditation. Even though it’s a video platform, I was really just going to have obscure shapes on there. Just things that if you’re watching on TV, that’ll just help your mind zoom out. But, after our aphantasia conversations and discoveries, I’m actually doing it differently. I’m going to put in things like when I’m trying to have you visualize things. I’m going to try to have those things on the screen at that moment. So that if you’re not able to, if there is no mind’s eye, you can open up your eyes and be brought to that place is my hope.
Natalie: Yeah, that’s great. I have that on Headspace. The meditation app will show you cartoons of different, really big concepts that they simplify and kind of make cartoons out of. It always is just such a great way for me to understand a concept that’s complicated is just to see it played out in front of me because that’s not something that I’m able to do.
Elliot: Yeah. I don’t dream. Once in a blue moon, I’ll have a dream. But, all I’ll remember about the dream is there were no faces.
Elliot: So, I don’t even know who the dream was about.
Natalie: Yeah. I definitely don’t have faces in my dreams either.
Elliot: That’s weird. I don’t know.
Natalie: Sometimes, I see colors.
Elliot: You see colors in your dreams.
Natalie: For sure, I see colors. Because I will remember them when I wake up. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. That was a colorful dream.” I know I see something. It’s an interesting thing to be an actress from this perspective because I feel like it really helps me be better at my job. Because I’m not like married to some image of what I’m supposed to be doing, or how I see the scripts playing out. So, when I get to set, I’m so malleable. Because you know if you explain to me basically what you want, I’m like, “Okay, great. I’ll show you that in a million different ways and you can choose your favorite.”
Elliot: And never the same way twice.
Natalie: Yeah. And, I’m not going to be mad if it’s different from what’s in my head, which is very difficult for a lot of actors to let go.
Elliot: Yeah. [unin]
Natalie: I’m hoping it helps with my birth as well, is that I don’t have this image of how it’s supposed to go.
Elliot: I actually find, as a doula, that being a doula for actors, experienced actors, is unique happening in itself. Because you take direction really well. Especially also, you have had such intense pain in your life, physical pain. I don’t know, I think those two could actually work in your favor. And, with the direction, it’s sort of like the Britta’s stuff where if your conscious mind is starting to go in one direction, somebody who you trust around you could potentially help you fairly easily move to a different take, a different perspective on what’s happening in that moment. I just find even with coaching and breathing, if that’s what somebody wants when I’m out of birth, that actors take it really well. You’re great with direction. Hopefully, that will serve you. I’m glad you brought that up. Because that’s our last little thing to talk about right here before you go have your baby. What are your intentions for birth?
Natalie: Like you said, Britta’s book has really shaped my intentions. I love that she talks about making pregnancy, and birth, and labor, and new parenthood a real meaning-making experience. She talks a lot about rites of passage. I had to make all these decisions. I got pregnant, and that’s like, “Okay. You have to make all these decisions. Where do you want to give birth and how do you want to do it? Do you want to do drugs? Do you want to do this? Do you…?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything about this stuff.”
And so, you fall down all this information rabbit hole, and then your Instagram figures out that you’re pregnant and starts showing you a million different things. Suddenly, I’m inundated with information. I’m like, “Oh, my God! Okay. If I just have enough information and the right information, then I can really nail this, to have this incredible experience with my birth.” And, when I finally found her book, I was like, “Okay. This is all about letting go of having these goals, and these really rigid ideas of what you want to do, and how you want it to go, and really like allowing this experience to be wild and unpredictable. That being a meaning-making experience and a rite of passage is just letting go of an idea of like, “This is what it has to be,” and just being open to this unknown and this incredibly uncomfortable feeling of just having such mystery of I have no idea what’s about to happen, and I don’t know what it’s like to have a child, and I don’t know what it’s going to be like, and what it’s going to feel like, and how much it’s going to hurt, and I don’t know if I’m doing it right. And, having that be the meaning-making experience is just allowing this uncertainty.
I wrote down a lot of intentions that she helped me shape and stuff. My intentions are stuff like, “I want to labor strongly with focus and attention to what is needed in the moment. I want to ask for help when I need it. I want to be tender with myself when I hit a moment that I wasn’t expecting or surprises me in a way I don’t like or I intend to be connected to this love that’s around me and the support that’s around me. I have a great team. Just to allow that in and just a lot of permission, give myself permission to feel like an animal. Giving myself permission to be impolite or anti-social, if that feels right. Or practice receiving help, which is not my strong suit. So, just really, to the best of my ability, receiving some help when I need it or refusing it when I don’t. And, just see what happens. I just want to meet each moment for exactly what it is. I intend to be at home for as long as I can. I hope to make it to 7 or 8 centimeters. I see the physiological benefit of getting that labor train going.
And, if I can do it with as much presence as possible and not numbing out physically, I’d like to do that. But, if it feels like I’m — I think you said this on one of the episodes I listened to. But, you said something like, “Being in pain and suffering are two different things.” That really stuck with me. I wrote that on my board and stuff that the pain is not going to deter me, but I don’t want to suffer. And, if I’m suffering, I’m going to ask for help.
Elliot: Yeah. I think I found some Penny [unin]. There’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is “ouch,” and suffering is a negative emotional response to “ouch.”
Natalie: Yeah. I don’t want to be putting myself through trauma, for the sake of proving something to myself or just getting through and being tough. That’s very much who I am. I was raised in ballet, of course. I deal with a lot of pain in my life. So, I was really like, “Oh, my God! I could be so transformed with how I deal with pain if I could prove to myself. You could do anything.” I just let a lot of that go. I think being tender with myself is much more challenging, allowing other people to be there for me and receiving help, that’s really challenging. I’m just going to try to do less. I’m just not effort so much and just allow, which I think is going to be mentally difficult for me. Because I’m like, “What do I do? Okay. I got it. Just tell me what to do. Give me directions. I love directions.”
Elliot: I will say that those birth intentions sound beautiful and practical, and they make sense for you.
Natalie: Yeah. I just want to meet each moment with what it’s going to be and not get married to some idea, which helps that I don’t have images because I have no idea what’s coming.
Elliot: Well, the image that comes to my logical mind at this moment is kind of like a hot air balloon. You’re taking up on this beautiful flight. And, if you’re very rigid about the direction you’re taking exactly where you’re going to land, you’re going to have a bad trip. But, roughly, where you’re taking off and roughly where you’re landing and you let the journey reveal itself.
Natalie: Yeah. It doesn’t sound like you have aphantasia because that was really cool image.
Elliot: Thanks. It’s only because over the summer, I did my first hot air balloon. I was like, “Don’t we want to be going that way?” They’re like, “We’ll get back there.” And then, we landed in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. It was practical.
Natalie: So, all roads lead to something delicious.
Elliot: Yeah. Red Lobster, was it something like that?
Natalie: That sounds great.
Elliot: Well, I’m so grateful for you for coming on and sharing. And, just grateful to even know you and work with you. I think you’re fantastic. I have learned so much from you, even about myself. And for that, I’ll always be grateful. I’m excited to hear how your journey goes, how your flight goes. And maybe, you’ll land at a Wendy’s, who knows?
Natalie: One can only hope.
Elliot: Now, only in the meantime, where can we find you online?
Natalie: You can find me on Instagram, @nataliedreyfuss.
Elliot: How did you come up with that?
Natalie: I don’t know. I’m so creative.
Elliot: It’s really kind of phenomenal that it was available.
Natalie: I imagined it.
Elliot: Finally! @nataliedreyfuss on Instagram. We’re @doctorberlin, D-O-C-T-O-R-B-E-R-L-I-N. At home, thanks for listening to our podcast. If you’re curious and you want to check it out, and you want to see the all-new Informed Pregnancy Plus, I would head over to informpregnancy.tv. That’s informedpregnancy.tv.