Canada·Reporter's Notebook

Choosing motherhood as a prime-time CBC host

Ginella Massa spent most of her childhood holding a hairbrush to her face as a makeshift microphone. She wasn’t sure motherhood was in the cards until recently.

CBC’s Ginella Massa grew up dreaming of becoming a TV host — not a mom

A smiling woman wearing a hijab holds a newborn baby while lying in a hospital bed.
Ginella Massa, right, with her baby girl shortly after she was born in October 2022. (Submitted by Ginella Massa)

Many girls dream of the day they'll become a mother, getting to dress their daughter in outfits that match their own, and comb her hair into perfect pigtails. 

That was never me. 

I spent most of my childhood holding a hairbrush to my face as a makeshift microphone, hosting our living room talent show, or pretend-interviewing my family. It's no surprise that I ended up as the host of a prime-time national show. That career ambition often kept me from dreaming of motherhood as a certainty for my future. 

A smiling elementary school portrait of a girl.
Massa, pictured here at age 12, always dreamed of becoming a broadcaster. (Submitted by Ginella Massa)

When I looked around my industry, I noticed that many women who made it to the top didn't have children. Or if they did, it was often later in life. It was somewhat of a relief when I met my husband, who admired my ambitions and never made me feel like I would have to choose between career and family. The fact that he already had two teenage boys from his first marriage took some pressure off. Still, he expressed his desire early on to have more. 

"I really want a daughter," he would tell me — as if we had any choice in the matter. 

"But you're almost out!" I would tease him about parenting. 

It wasn't a hard no for me. It was just that I had never had a deep, burning desire to become a mother. Maybe in the right circumstances, with the right person, with the right job, and the right paycheque, I'd feel ready. 

It wasn't just my career holding me back. My parents were divorced, and I'd watched both remarry and have children with their second partner. I was 13 when my youngest brother was born, and I became more like a second parent than an older sister. After changing countless diapers through my teen years, I didn't romanticize the idea of motherhood like many of my girlfriends. I worried that I might resent my child for keeping me from growing in my career, traveling the world, or putting a strain on my otherwise solid relationship with my husband. 

Four children of different ages smile and stand closely together. One of the teens is holding a baby in her arms.
On the right is 13-year-old Massa with her 15-year-old sister, Gilary, their much younger sister, three-year-old Taslim, and their newborn brother, Ismael. (Submitted by Ginella Massa)

"Your life doesn't have to end when you have a kid," my husband would remind me. "Besides, I'm here to help." It was true that he was a hands-on dad, always present for his boys even after his divorce. 

"Maybe in a few years," I would muse, noncommittally. 

Barely a year into our marriage, I had surgery to remove a mass from my pancreas and it took a year for me to fully recover. In the second year of our marriage, we bought a house and I went from reporting to anchoring the 11 p.m. news. Then my husband developed sciatica from a herniated disk and was bedridden for three months. I would joke that I had a newborn baby to feed and dress at home. It was another year before he was back on his feet. 

After we recovered from those major health scares, our relationship had only grown stronger. Finally, we agreed to try for a baby the following year. 

But that fall I was offered a dream job — hosting Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa, my own national show airing on prime time on CBC News Network. 

I couldn't very well leave a position I'd just started, not to mention it was only a one-year contract. The baby would have to wait.

In November 2021, I signed a new contract with CBC. I was about to turn 35 and my biological clock was ticking — loudly. I realized I might never feel 100 per cent ready, but I decided that was OK. 

Then my husband threw me a curveball: "I think I would be OK not having more kids."

His oldest had just graduated highschool, and as I had predicted, he was finally starting to get a taste of freedom. But his words felt like a gut punch. All this time, he had been the one trying to convince me, and I was the reluctant participant. Or at least that's what I had told myself.

"We'll only do it if you really want to," he offered. "What do you want?"

I realized then that I was just scared to say it out loud. It wasn't that I didn't want to be a mother. It was that I was afraid of failing at it.

Three months later, I stared at the two lines on the pregnancy test, tears streaming down my face. It had happened so fast. The tears were a mix of fear, joy, anxiety and shock. 

Admittedly, I was in a bit of denial, and talking about it made it too real. As a national news anchor, I wouldn't just be sharing the news with my family and friends, but all of Canada. So, I kept it to myself for a long time. 

A smiling pregnant woman holds her belly while standing on a TV news set.
Massa, pictured in October 2022 while hosting her last show of Canada Tonight before going on maternity leave. (Submitted by Ginella Massa)

The beginning of my pregnancy was mercifully uneventful. I had no morning sickness, no major cravings, and I was barely showing for months. Finally, at month five, my belly started poking out and I knew I had to tell my bosses. I was nervous. I'd only been with CBC for two years, and it felt like I was just starting to get my footing. Thankfully, they were supportive and reassured me that my show would still be there when I returned from maternity leave in a year.

As I began sharing the news with friends, it started to feel more real. And with more people hearing the news came a ton of questions I didn't have the answers for. 

"Are you going to get an epidural?"

"Who's going to replace you on the show?"

"Um, I don't know yet," I would answer lamely. 

Then came the warnings and words of advice.

"Don't ride your bike, you could fall."

"Enjoy your last summer vacation. You're never going to be alone with your husband again."

I wanted to scream. It seemed every mother wanted to share her hospital horror story or warn me about "the things no one tells you." My mind was already working overtime fighting negative thoughts; I really needed to focus on the positive. 

"It's a girl!" the midwife confirmed, reading my ultrasound results. I didn't realize how relieved I would feel hearing that news. A girl I can handle! I thought. After all, I AM one! My husband was thrilled, getting his wish. 

For the first time, I allowed myself to feel excited about the little girl who was about to change our world. 

Soon there was no more denying the life growing bigger inside of me. Every kick felt like a constant reminder: Ready or not, here I come! Fear was slowly starting to give way to excitement. 

Three weeks before my due date, a friend asked how I was feeling. "Good," I said. "I mean, I'm tired and I'm heavy, but mostly I'm just ready." 

"Wow!" she remarked."I've never heard you say you're ready before!" I thought about it for a moment. What I had meant was I was ready to rip off the Band-Aid because the anticipation was killing me. But I also did feel ready for whatever was coming my way. I had finally come to terms with the fact that I really wasn't in control of the future, and that was OK. 

A smiling woman holds up a onesie.
Massa’s CBC colleagues presented her with a onesie with the words “Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa” printed on it before she departed on maternity leave. (Submitted by Ginella Massa)

My water broke at 2 a.m. on a Thursday in October. After 19 hours of labour, our baby girl was born by C-section. 

My overjoyed husband held her up to my face. "She's really here," I said, letting out a sob. Every tear felt like a release — anxiety, worry and fear all washing away. I felt a strange calm, and a sense of relief. 

I have no idea how I will juggle being a mother and a full-time news anchor when it's time to return to work. I've cried my fair share of tears, overwhelmed with exhaustion, coming to terms with the fact that my body is no longer my own. The days have been hard, and the nights often feel endless. But when I see my daughter's cheeky smile, or hear her burst into a fit of giggles, I know I must be doing something right, and try to quiet the negative thoughts.

A smiling woman holds a laughing baby while a smiling man stands behind them.
Massa, left, and her husband, Usamah, can’t help but smile at their baby’s cheeky giggles. (Submitted by Ginella Massa)

When I think about the future, it's easy to spiral down an endless pit of anxious thoughts and questions. Is she eating enough? Will I ever sleep again? Will she forget me when I go back to work? 

Motherhood can feel like a thankless job, and often there's no one reassuring you that you're doing things right. I certainly don't have all the answers, and I know I never will. But for every low, there is a high, and for every tear, a laugh. All I can do is take each challenge as it comes. 

My fear of being an inadequate mother made me believe that maybe I shouldn't be a mother at all. But the reality is no mother is perfect. And right now, I truly can't imagine being anything else. 


Ginella Massa

Host of Canada Tonight

Ginella Massa is currently on maternity leave as the host of Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa, airing weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on CBC News Network. She is also a special correspondent for CBC’s flagship newscast, The National.


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