Caitlin Thompson has had a triple dose of the new-mom experience this past year. Not only does the actor, who plays Madison on This Is Us, portray a mom of twin babies on the small screen, but she’s also a new mom IRL, too. Thompson and her husband, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, welcomed their first child, son Ben, last May — although fans of the new mama had to wait quite a while to get a glimpse of her baby on social media.
SheKnows caught up with Thompson ahead of the This Is Us season 5 finale to talk about first-time pandemic parenting, the This Is Us baby-boy boom, and the risk (or, um, reward?) of spoilers when you work with your screenwriter-spouse. (Spoiler alert: She wouldn’t spoil anything for us!)
SheKnows: Congratulations on being a new mom! What’s your experience been like as a first-time mom in a pandemic?
Caitlin Thompson: I mean, I’m a first-time mom, so I don’t know what to expect! I don’t know any different, and I guess my baby doesn’t know any different. But it’s been interesting. In some ways, it’s been amazing because the world kind of slowed down and we’ve all been hunkering at home. I’ve had that time to be there, be present, hang out with him, and just fully dive into being a mom. And then in other ways, it’s kind of isolating. I’m missing out on all those mommy and me classes! I have my group of friends and we text each other for advice and questions and whatnot. But as far as having that actual community… Hopefully soon.
SK: You waited about two and a half months to introduce your baby to the world on Instagram. Can you talk about why you waited and kept him to yourself?
CT: It’s not that exciting. I’m just horrible on social media! It’s not my main way of communicating with people. So I like to throw things up when it’s natural and fun and organic and instead of making it something I have to do. But it’s a big life event; it’s fun to share with people and it’s nice to read the comments and everyone wishing me well.
SK: So there was no plan of keeping your pregnancy or baby news secret?
CT: It wasn’t calculated by any means. It’s kind of just more, I wanted it to be when it’s the right moment, and then I’ll wait for some milestones… maybe for his one year [birthday] I’ll do another one.
SK: It’s coming up, right? Do you have any plans for a big first birthday celebration?
CT: Yeah, May 30th. We’ve kind of been discussing, as the world is starting to open up a little bit more, where we’re comfortable having people over and in wanting to do it safely. My dad’s actually coming to meet him for the first time, so that’ll be fun. And then my brother is going to come out, and then have some family that are vaccinated [and will] travel to see him. So I think that in itself is going to be an exciting way to celebrate the milestone. But it’s crazy, crazy that he’s almost a year old and so many people haven’t met him yet.
SK: That must be hard. Were you initially counting on having family help? Or even just have people around and come meet your baby?
CT: I was fortunate to have my mom be able to come out when he was born, which was huge because, I mean, I had never changed a diaper before. My husband was in the same boat; we just didn’t know how to do anything with a baby. She kept me fed and made sure that I knew how to give him a bath, and just kind of walk us through and reassured us that we were doing the right thing. So that was amazing. And we had some socially distanced, outside, masked visits with friends — I almost feel like Ben knows people better with a mask than without — but it definitely wasn’t what you expect when you’re pregnant.
SK: Was there one thing in particular that really surprised you about your pregnancy or postpartum experience?
CT: I was fortunate to have a really easy pregnancy. I was eating like a toddler; I was very into, like, mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly! As far as postpartum, I’ve realized that I can function on a lot less sleep than I ever thought I could. I was one of those people that was like, ‘If I don’t get eight hours and I get seven and a half, I can’t function the next day.’ And then all of a sudden, I don’t know what kicked in, if it’s hormones or adrenaline, but I was getting four to five hours, broken up into chunks, and somehow still functioning. So, that was a surprise. And I feel like I’ve toughened up a little bit, which is nice and probably very helpful for the next 18 years.
SK: Did your own pregnancy inform how you played Madison?
CT: It was definitely great research! It’s funny, I felt like I was pregnant for two years because I was pregnant on the show up until [Madison’s] labor, and I was [actually] pregnant all through even part of season four. So, yes, every time I strapped on that belly, I was like, oh, so familiar. Here we go again.
SK: And you’re not alone — some of your fellow castmates are new parents as well. And obviously, you’re on a show that’s all about family. Are you all sharing parenting tips or advice or tales from the trenches?
CT: Yeah, we talk about it. Chris Sullivan and his wife Rachel, their son Bear is only two months younger than Ben. They’ve gotten to meet a couple of times. There are all these little text chains swapping stories and trying to get them together. And Mandy is a new mom and going through breastfeeding like I am. So we’ve talked about that a little bit. It’s nice. It’s funny, we’ve all had boys. I’m not sure what’s in the air, what’s in the water over there.
SK: There’s been a lot of talk about the baby names on the show for your twins. Can you talk about landing on a baby name for your real-life baby?
CT: That was our Christmas homework. Like, okay, we have three weeks of not working, like, let’s come up with a name. And Ben was kind of the only name that we both agreed on. I think Dan was leaning toward more of the classical names and I was like, oh, can we do something a little unique? But we both loved Ben and we like that it had nicknames — we call him Benny a lot — so we didn’t have to go any further than that.
SK: I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but what’s it like working with your spouse?
CT: It’s fun! Yeah, it’s awesome. I mean, unless you don’t want to know spoilers, then you kind of have to walk around the house like this [covers her ears], which I do. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Just FYI: Madison is my wife in real life @CaitwithaC
— Dan Fogelman (@Dan_Fogelman) March 14, 2018
SK: He sort of famously tweeted at one point that he wasn’t going to let your character sleep with Justin Hartley. And we all know how that turned out. So, speaking of spoilers, do you have any influence or get any input on some of the things that happen?
CT: No, I have nothing to do with it. I have no influence or input. I don’t think they want it. They have a group of amazing writers who have it all figured out and planned out. So I stay out of it. And I think they’ve done a pretty good job thus far. So I’m just trying to figure it out and not meddle in any way.
SK: Your character Madison admitted to being a big Outlander fan. Have you ever watched the show in real life?
CT: I watched the first one, and I thought it was very entertaining and fun. I haven’t had time to watch much of anything these days, but I think it’s something I could get into. I kind of liked the whole fantasy.
SK: One final question. Any hints, teasers, or spoilers you can share? Any little nugget of information you can give us about what we can expect coming up on the season finale of This Is Us or from Kevin and Madison?
CT: I know they keep us very tight-lipped and I have the whole script right here, but I can’t share much. It’s all going to be revolving around the wedding in these final episodes. I think people think they want to know, but they don’t actually want to know.