Ten Questions: Katie Fehlinger
Weathering the storm
By Terri Akman

Katie Fehlinger didn’t intend to become an advocate for pregnant women’s rights, but the CBS3 and CW Philly morning news team meteorologist recently found herself thrown into that spotlight. Last August, far along into her pregnancy with twins, online haters compared her baby bump to “sausage in a casing” with one commenter saying he “vomited his breakfast” while watching her. The respected on-air journalist was at first shocked and hurt. When those feelings turned to anger, she responded in a Facebook post that went viral, garnering over a million views.

Were you surprised by the hateful comments?
Absolutely. I’m in a business where you understand that people are going to have something to say about how you look. Image is part of the job for me. But at the same time, I didn’t think I looked that bad. I’m creating life – what’s your superpower? I never expected bringing life into the world would be a source of hate for people. I was so shocked by how negative and hurtful people were. Sometimes it might be hard for people to remember the fact that, hey, there’s somebody on the receiving end of these things you think you are just putting out in the atmosphere.

What happened that turned those feelings into anger?
There was a moment of clarity where I wasn’t embarrassed or subconscious, I was just really fed up. It was as though people were attacking every woman who had ever gone through the rigors and the joys of pregnancy. There’s no reason that a mom-to-be should be attacked like that.

Katie Fehlinger showing off her baby bump at the Shore

Katie Fehlinger showing off her baby bump at the Shore

Did you ever consider starting your maternity leave early?
Absolutely not. The only reason I would have done that is if the doctor ordered it. When I was newly pregnant I thought 12 weeks sounded like so much time. It really flew by, and I wish I would have been able to take more time than that. But it is what it is. Every precious second with them is going to be on my terms. I had to make some concessions. I had to start waking up earlier because I was moving very slowly carrying 50 extra pounds around. Also, I was very conscious of how I put my forecast together, because when I would turn to the side I would take up half the screen. I made my weather map so I wouldn’t be covering up anything I was trying to show people.

How did you decide what to say on Facebook and how to say it?
I was very careful about what I said. There was no need for me to stoop to their level and say anything back that was just as angry. I felt it wasn’t just a personal attack, that there needed to be something said for everybody else who may have gone through something like this. Knowing how difficult it is to maintain a pregnancy in a healthy way plus try to be a full-time employee and excel at your job, it’s really difficult. There’s no room for body shaming. Women need to be applauded for what they are going through.

What was the reaction to your post?
Overwhelmingly positive, which was so amazing and humbling to see. There were a couple of folks who made some nasty comments, but overwhelmingly there was support. I never expected that kind of response; I was hoping for a little bit of catharsis. It blew up. But it wasn’t what I had set out to do. It really was humbling and so inspiring to get that kind of response.

People attached their names to those comments – they weren’t anonymous. Did anyone apologize?
If they did, I didn’t see it. People were commenting on posts I made about El Niño and out of the blue said, “You look terrible.” These were completely random posts that had nothing to do with my pregnancy. It was very much an attack, which is why I got so angry. These people had no problem putting their names to their posts.

What did you learn from the experience?
There’s a lot more positivity in this world than negativity. My colleague had a great line: Positive comments are like Teflon, but negative comments are like Velcro – they really stick with you. That hit so close to home for me, because that’s how I am. I hear something bad, and all the positive comments flutter away.

For some reason it’s hard to get rid of the negativity. I don’t think we’ll ever see the insensitive side of the Internet go away, but the response to my post proved positivity overwhelmingly outweighs the negative. There are a lot of good people out there, and I just have to remind myself of that.

What can you share with others about shaming on social media?
It’s absolutely uncalled for. There’s no reason for it. One of my biggest fears about motherhood is what can come from the Internet. I am so nervous about social media down the road for them. The Internet is an amazing tool, but at the same time it scares the living daylights out of me. I have been on the receiving end of how negative it can be, but I remember being in the awkward stages of childhood, and kids can be really mean. The Internet is such a bigger, scarier source of that kind of negativity. That’s where I get nervous about parenting down the road.

Katie Fehlinger’s twins Parker and Kaeden, 8 months old

Katie Fehlinger’s twins Parker and Kaeden, 8 months old

You are now juggling motherhood to 8-month-old twins Parker and Kaeden along with your career. What is your schedule like now?
Pretty rough, actually. We still have overnight feedings so I’m usually awake anywhere between 1:30 and 2 am. Then I hit the road, and I’m on the air by 4:30, which means my hair and makeup is all done. We have a little bit of a break between shows from around 9 to 11:30, and then I’m back on the air again at noon. I get home around 1 and settle into a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt for my second full-time job of the day – my most favorite job – hanging out with the girls.

I try to get to bed around 8. I don’t get a lot of sleep, but it is such a blast hanging out with them. I have so much fun.

What’s the craziest reaction someone had after an incorrect weather report? Has anyone ever been mad at you?
Oh, yes. That kind of stuff has typically come over somebody’s keyboard through social media, never directly to my face. It was back in January of last year when the entire weather community in this area botched it up. There were people calling for all of us to apologize. That was something I wasn’t willing to do, because at the end of the day, my colleagues and I put our absolute best efforts to make it an accurate forecast, and we just got it wrong. Sometimes it happens, and Mother Nature throws a curve ball.

May 2016
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