NBC “TODAY” show co-host and meteorologist Dylan Dreyer didn’t expect to be working just two weeks after the early birth of her third son.
Russell, or “Rusty” as she calls him, was born six weeks before his due date, and he spent a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before he could join his family at home.
In between caring for her 3-week-old son and connecting with her older children, Calvin, 4, and Oliver, 21 months, Dreyer has been fielding interviews and Zoom calls in her bedroom to promote her new children's book. The book was supposed to come out in September and Rusty was supposed to arrive in November, but the two events ended up converging and Dreyer has had to occasionally step into work mode. “It’s been a lot of working through [the kids'] emotions, a lot of conversations,” Dreyer said.
Dreyer, 40, called her husband Brian Fichera her biggest supporter in her motherhood/career juggle. “He's always saying, ‘The lessons you're teaching our boys by working as hard as you work will be a part of them forever,’” she explained. “He makes me feel better and less guilty about working. I'm showing the boys that you work hard to get the things you want.”
With a new baby and the new children’s book, “Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day,” Dreyer, who lives in New York City, is literally working around the clock. “I've just reserved myself to knowing that I'm not going to be able to sleep or nap during the day. At nighttime, someone is always going to be up and needing something … I’m just sort of embracing it.”
Three babies, three very different maternity leaves
When her first child, Calvin, was born Dreyer said she had a “classic maternity leave.” She stayed home for three months and then returned to work. Since her job involves a lot of travel, she got used to leaving and pumping breastmilk for Calvin while on the road.
With Oliver, her maternity leave rolled right into the pandemic, so she didn’t really have to travel. She was again breastfeeding, and since she was at home with her family, she didn’t have to worry about traveling or pumping, which made her postpartum period easier.
This time around, Dreyer expects to take advantage of NBC’s new maternity policy, which allows her to spend 16 weeks at home with Rusty before returning to full-time work at "TODAY." “When I go back, if things are sort of getting back to normal, I'll probably go back to traveling again. That's what I'm most worried about—just traveling and pumping and being on the road and leaving three kids at home. I'm kind of terrified about it,” she said.
The birth of her children’s book
Dreyer started developing the concept for her first picture book, “Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day,” with her husband 10 years ago. It features a sweet little cloud who just happens to be in a very grumpy mood.
When she first pitched the story to editors, they said, “You’re a female meteorologist. You should write a book about a female meteorologist.” When Dreyer declined, saying that she preferred to write about an imaginative world in the sky, they told her, “Instead of writing from the cloud’s perspective, why don’t you write from a little girl’s perspective…a little girl who wants to be a meteorologist?”
Again, Dreyer insisted that the book follow her original idea, and that idea has now become a reality.
“I am so proud of myself—which is something I don't say often—but I'm proud of myself that I stuck to my guns and I knew that this is the story I wanted. Now that the book is here, I'm just so happy that I fought for it, and it's exactly what I want it to be and I didn't have to compromise,” Dreyer said.
Good days and bad days
With a wink to her meteorology background, Dreyer’s book helps children deal with big emotions. She said that she wanted the book to acknowledge that “it's okay to have bad emotions. Not everything has to be happy. And sometimes you just wake up grumpy. You might wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But it's what you do with those emotions that impacts everyone around you.”
Dreyer’s sounding board and “co-editor” through the writing process was her oldest son, Calvin.
She said, “If there were things that he didn't understand, I knew I needed to take those out of the book or rework it a little bit. Or if there's stuff that he liked and made him smile, and made him comment, I knew I had to keep that in there.”
Like Misty the Cloud, Calvin sometimes has bad days and stormy emotions. When Calvin started throwing tantrums regularly, Dreyer remembered simply asking him if he wanted a hug. “He stopped in his tracks, and he just shook his head, ‘yes.’ He comes over and he gives me a hug, and he totally calms down. Then we just had a conversation,” Dreyer said.
The experience showed Dreyer the power that words have to help kids identify and cope with emotions.
“Kids are totally capable of having an adult conversation. As soon as I gave Calvin credit for being able to do that, it just changed the whole dynamic of our house,” she said. “I just think it goes a long way, and it makes everything just a little calmer and a little more manageable in the house.”