Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler was 20 years old and playing the role of Meadow Soprano on the HBO show “The Sopranos” when she first found out she had multiple sclerosis (MS). Although she initially kept her diagnosis a secret for 15 years, she later chose to go public about it. One reason for disclosing the diagnosis: She had become a mom.
Sigler shared her thoughts about parenting with MS during a “Me Becoming Mom” podcast, discussing a range of topics surrounding life with MS and how the condition has affected pregnancy and motherhood.
When Sigler was initially diagnosed with MS, her doctor reassured her that people with the condition can typically get pregnant, deliver, and breastfeed if they decide to. Sigler noted that during her first pregnancy, she felt great. “I was taking longer walks than I had in years,” she said during the podcast. “It was a glorious time, it was also a time when I was still hiding the fact that I had MS. And I’d had some gait issues — a little bit of a limp. All of a sudden, people weren't questioning what was wrong with my walking, because I was waddling because I was pregnant. So I just felt this opportunity to kind of relax, not feel so self-conscious.”
Sigler was nervous about delivering her first son because MS had made her feel disconnected from the muscles in her body’s core, and she was unsure about whether she would be able to push during delivery. But with her doctor’s encouragement, she found the strength, and gave birth to a healthy baby. “It was an experience that went beyond MS,” she said. “It was more about, ‘You’re a mother, and this is your baby.’ He didn’t know what was going on with my body. And it was an opportunity for me to feel normal.”
Learn about what to expect with pregnancy when you’re living with MS.
Sigler's decision to share her MS diagnosis publicly came when her son was about 2 1/2 years old. “He was getting to an age where he was very aware of my limitations,” Sigler said. “He didn’t necessarily know I had something called MS, but he knew there were things I couldn’t do, and it was also getting harder to hide. I was tired of making excuses.”
She didn’t want her son to have to keep her secret for her, so she chose to reveal her condition to the world.
When she went public, not only was it freeing, but it also led to self-acceptance. “Keeping it a secret had also allowed me to live in a state of denial myself,” she said.
Learn more about deciding when to disclose your MS to others.
Sigler and her husband Cutter Dykstra now have two sons: Beau, who is 8, and Jack Adam, who is 3. Although parenting with MS sometimes means that she has to skip activities, like school field trips, she’s found other ways to play with her kids, like working on Legos together. And she’s found that MS has strengthened her bond with her children.
“I actually don't know if I would be the person and mother I am proud to be right now without it,” she said. “I think we all are given something in our life to push us and make us grow. And MS happens to be my thing.”
Sigler offered advice to other parents who may be dealing with factors that make them feel different from others. “I think everybody is dealing with something extra, everybody has another hurdle to climb,” she said. “You’re not alone. Motherhood is something where you’re meant to have a village, whether that’s your best friends or people who you’ve met online or in a Facebook group. That doesn’t make you less of a mom and it never will. Just being a mom and loving your kids is more than enough.”