Known for her villainous persona inside the ring, WWE star Carmella — real name Leah Van Dale — has taken a break from the world of wrestling to prepare for life as a first-time mom. Leah announced she and her husband Matt Polinsky are expecting their first child together; Matt also has three children from a previous marriage.
In an exclusive interview with Distractify, the former WWE SmackDown Women's Champion opened up about the ups and downs of her pregnancy journey, if she plans to return to the WWE post-baby, and more.
Check out our Q&A below. (Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Leah Van Dale aka Carmella talks pregnancy journey, returning to the WWE post-baby, and more.
Distractify: Congrats on your exciting baby news! What cravings or pregnancy symptoms have you been experiencing? I know in your first trimester, you were very vocal about experiencing morning sickness.
Leah Van Dale: Yeah, I mean, it was more like all-day sickness. I feel like it's crazy. I had no idea how rough it would be in the first trimester. You hear about morning sickness, you get, you know, a little tired here and there. But for me, it was debilitating. I was so tired. I felt so sick all the time. And I'm like, 'Why does nobody talk about this? How come nobody told me it would be this bad?' Not that it would have changed anything.
LVD (continued): But now that I'm in the second trimester, I feel so much more myself and I get why people forget about how awful the first trimester is because now I'm just kind of like living my life as normal and I feel like myself again. But I will say that the first trimester is really rough as far as cravings go. I'm not really craving anything in particular. I'm really leaning into more of the fresh fruits and veggies now because the first trimester was all just like pizza and carbs and pasta and things like that. So now I can finally get back on track with what I normally am eating. So I'm just kind of trying to find a healthy balance between the two.
You have been open about your pregnancy struggles on social media, talking about your miscarriages and experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. What made you want to open up about your personal journey?
LVD: It wasn't something that I initially thought I would share but I had the first miscarriage and I just kept it to myself. I didn't really say anything. I just thought, 'Okay, well, this is what you do. You just deal with it, you move on.' And then when it happened again, it was really just sort of isolating. I felt alone. I felt like I was blaming myself, like, 'Why is this happening to me again?' And I just thought I needed to share it for myself, because I was a different person, because after losing two babies, you know, it changed me.
LVD (continued): I also felt like if there's one positive spin I can put on all of this, I can maybe help one other person that's going through it. [...] I mean, even some of my girlfriends [said] that they went through it and they didn't tell anyone. And like they were thanking me for sharing my story. [...] I can't imagine dealing with such a devastating loss and dealing with it by yourself and it's just sort of led me to be more open with everything as far as the miscarriages, the losses, the struggle with fertility, the even sharing my pregnancy journey, like I said, people don't talk about how hard it is in the beginning. [...] I was really struggling those first few months. And I just think it's, it's something that I'm working on right now a project where we can be more open and have conversations about these things. Because it's almost a stigma around, you know, loss and around infertility and around, you know, feeling sad about being pregnant and your body changing and things that people don't want to talk about it. So something that I think is very important to share and be open with.
Are you planning to return to the WWE post-baby?
LVD: I definitely want to go back. [...] I'm someone who likes to be, you know, active and keep busy. So it's definitely hard, I think, to go from working so much all the time and being on the road all the time to the exact opposite. I definitely want to go back; I think it's important to show that you can be a mom and still have a career and especially a very physical one. That being said, I definitely want to take my time going back, I don't want to rush. Having a baby and delivering a baby in and of itself is such a huge physical toll on the body. So I want to make sure I feel great both physically and mentally before I go back.
When you return to the WWE, are you planning to bring the family on the road with you?
LVD: Oh, see, that's what I'm torn. It's not fair to do that to a baby, to bring my baby on the road. I don't know how I feel about it. But being away from the baby will be difficult as well. I will have my mom around full-time to help out which I'm very grateful for. So I guess we'll cross that bridge really get there. Right now, I'm just focusing on healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby, and then someday down the line getting back to work and all working out.
What other projects are you currently working on?
LVD: I am working on a project that [is] really exciting. I don't want to say too much about it. It's in the early stages. But again, it's about creating a community for women to be more open and honest about fertility, and about pregnancy and sex. All of that stuff wrapped up into one. I feel like again, it's 2023, let's start these conversations, let's talk about these things. It doesn't need to be so taboo and have a stigma around it. I think the more we're open about it, you know, the better it will be for everybody. So that's something I'm working on. So everyone, stay tuned.