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How getting sick on live TV, 7 weeks pregnant, sparked a Know Your Value moment

NBC News correspondent Julia Ainsley said the moment taught her to put aside her pride, place her health first and lean on supportive colleagues.
Julia E. Ainsley is an NBC News correspondent who covers national security and justice.
Julia E. Ainsley is an NBC News correspondent who covers national security and justice.Courtesy of Julia E. Ainsley.

On May 29, I was called to the Justice Department for an event no reporter in Washington D.C. saw coming: Special Counsel Robert Mueller was making his first public statement after two years of investigating President Trump’s campaign and its ties to Russia.

I rushed down to 10th St and Pennsylvania Ave NW, ready to carry live coverage for MSNBC. I was familiar with the story, having covered every detail of the investigation and its conclusions from that very corner. But something was different this day: I was seven weeks pregnant.

With this being my first child, I didn’t quite know my limits. I was used to working all day without a break and never gave a second thought of what I put in my body. Hydration was an afterthought.

That morning, I figured a popsicle and a piece of blueberry bread on my way out the door would suffice. But the throws of morning sickness were just starting to set in. And as we started our second hour of coverage, I started eyeing flower pots as potential targets in case I needed to make a run for it.

Our coverage on MSNBC that day was full of guests and experts sharing their take on Mueller’s remarks. At one point, I hadn’t spoken on air in 30 minutes and thought I was no longer in the frame. I was wrong.

When I could not wait a moment longer, I motioned (I thought just to the control room!) and whispered “I’m gonna be sick!” Little did I know, I had a national audience. I took off my ear piece, and ran down the sidewalk, losing my terrible breakfast in the bushes just out of shot of the cameras.

Mortified, but physically relieved, I walked back to the camera and checked my phone. I had texts from editors, friends and family all asking if I was OK. At this point, only my husband and my doctor knew about the pregnancy, so I just told them all I was dehydrated. But one text cut to the point: “OMG Are you pregnant?” It was from “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski. In that most vulnerable of moments I needed a friend, mentor and someone I could confide in.

I texted back “yes, but don’t tell!” Mika instantly poured on excitement and reassuring words. She eased my worry about having a moment of weakness on air. And she has kept in touch, asking how I’m feeling as I’ve progressed through the pregnancy.

A major concern of mine was (and frankly, still is) not being able to travel south of the border while pregnant. I cover immigration, so this is an imperative part of getting close to the story. But the lingering threat of Zika (which has been downgraded, but still concerns me), the long days in the heat and the risk of getting sick from drinking water all combined to outweigh the benefits of traveling to Central America.

I’m already having to make decisions between what is best for my child and what advances my career, something I know I’ll have to do for the years to come. So many women at NBC, including my colleague Courtney Kube who covers the Pentagon and travels often, have reassured me that I’ve made the right decision. I also have a fantastic bag of TV friendly maternity clothes passed down from Yasmin Vossoughian, Katy Tur and Kasie Hunt.

Already this journey has taught me to put aside my pride, place my health first and lean on supportive colleagues.

The cliche “it takes a village” really is true and it starts much earlier than I thought! Even at seven weeks!

Julia E. Ainsley is an NBC News correspondent who covers national security and justice.