We recently caught up with Rachel Stevens at Boots' Journey Through Motherhood event in London. As well as chatting to us about Boots' fab baby products, and telling us what she uses on her own little girl, Amelie, nine months, (Boots' Baby Sensitive range got a huge thumbs up!), Rachel spilled the beans on being a new mum...
Was a baby on the agenda as soon as you and your husband Alex got married?
We always knew that we wanted to have children, but I don't know if it's something you can really plan necessarily. We didn't plan to do it straight away though. We were married for a year and then we started talking about it, and it kind of happened quickly!
What was it like when you got that positive test result?
It was just unbelievable! I didn't think I was pregnant so there was no specific reason for me to do a test, I just thought I would! It must have been an instinct thing! Then it went positive and I remember almost running around the house - I didn't know what to do with myself! It was so exciting, just crazy! I remember calling my husband and he was at work and I didn't want to tell him over the phone so I waited all day and I got a call from him at 6pm saying he was running late, of course, on the one day when I wanted him to be on time!
Did you feel everything changed from that moment on?
We were just so excited! I remember Alex came home, and me telling him, and we were both a bit like 'well, we don't want to get too excited just in case' - it wasn't like one of those electronic tests, just the stick ones with lines, so we decided to do another one to make sure! We only did the two though – that was convincing enough for us! Then we went round to my mum and to Alex's parents to tell them!
Did you enjoy your pregnancy?
I loved it. Loved being pregnant! I did feel quite sick in the first five months, but you kind of forget that in a way, and the rest of it was really fantastic. It all went really smoothly.
Did you have a birth plan?
I did, but I was also very open to the fact that nature was going to take its course. I wanted it to be as natural as possible, but I wanted drugs on standby, so my plan allowed me to be open and see what happened on the day.
And how was it?
Absolutely amazing! We spent most of the day at home and Alex was incredible! I remember we went to the park, went and had hot dogs in Regent's Park and all the time Alex had the 'contraction app' on his iPhone which I think is brilliant for men because it means they can kind of feel like they are a bit involved! Every 5-10 minutes he would be looking at his phone and I would be bent over having a contraction! When we got home I had a bath and Alex made me lunch, and I felt all pampered, it was lovely. Then that day I actually had a consultant appointment anyway because we were a week before my due date, but by the time I got to see her, I was ready to go at 4cms dilated so I went straight to hospital.
So did you enjoy the actual labour?
It was an amazing experience, I am very lucky! We got into the room and rearranged it all and the hospital staff were absolutely brilliant. Alex made me CD of all my favourite music and made it as zen as possible, and then, when she was born I thought I had a boy! It's all so overwhelming, that moment, it's like a dream. Alex then said she was a little girl and I just burst into tears and brought her straight to my chest and it was the most amazing thing.
How were those first few days at home?
I went home too soon actually, she was born at 2am and we went home that night so I hadn't had much sleep - shows your mind isn't working, clearly! That first night at home was scary, really scary. I think in retrospect, if I'd had a good night's sleep and gone home the following morning it would have been better. You have this little tiny thing that you are personally responsible for making all those little noises... it's so scary. We had her in a Moses basket next to us and it kind of felt like a dream that first night, just crazy!
Did you have help at home?
Not for the first week, but then we had a night nurse who was an absolute God-send. It was amazing to have that support, because you just don't know what you are doing. I have always been very maternal and I have always had an idea of what I wanted to do, but you can never prepare enough - you can read books but you can only read so much, and every baby is so different.
How long was it before you felt you were in a routine with Amelie?
I think 12 weeks, once she got to three months it was like, OK, I can breathe, I know what I am doing now!
What was the first big thing you did on your own with her?
Taking her out. She was born in November and it was freezing cold and the days were short and I remember the first day Alex went back to work - which I think for mums is one of the scariest times, when you are suddenly there on your own. So just getting out the house, for me, was scary, and getting the buggy up - I am not great at the best of times with things like that !
What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you in those early days?
Just to relax and breathe and know that it depends what you want. I was all about routine from the beginning because I wanted to be organised. Those first eight weeks you just sleep when the baby sleeps, and just kind of get to know each other. You have this new person in the world and you're meeting them for the first time and your whole life changes. I really think it's all a massive learning experience that you should relax through and enjoy.
And what about juggling work and motherhood? When did you first go back?
I think she was a few months, but I was doing very sporadic things, so would only be without her for a couple of hours. I started doing more when she was about three or four months old, and it is a real juggling act. I think I felt torn, but I am very lucky to have amazing support and what I do is not 9-5, but it is hard.
Were you under pressure to lose the baby weight when you went back to work?
Your body changes when you've had a baby and you change as a woman. It takes time to get your body back, probably at least about a year, once you have had your baby. I don't think I felt any pressure, more a feeling of just feeling different. I have always been a real advocate of healthy eating, and the fact we all come in different shapes and sizes. It's about being what is right for you and not being super skinny.
Did you work out?
I started training again quite quickly because I was exercising with a great woman who was very sensitive to pregnancy. She has trained a lot of pregnant women so she was very gentle. We did yoga and a lot of suspension and toning stuff, and a lot of walking.
Are you very aware of the paps when you do go?
I am aware of it. I'd rather not be sometimes, but where I live they are always there! Some days its fine, some days it's not! Some days I just want to go to the shop and get some milk or whatever, but it comes with the territory.
So what is the absolute best thing for you about parenting?
It is literally like Christmas every morning! I remember my brother saying the same thing. He has got two little girls, and I remember him saying that before I had Amelie. It really is, when you see them for the first time in the morning, she wakes up and I hear her chatting away and she is singing away and its lovely!
Do you have plans for lots of brothers and sisters for her?
I would love to have more. I don't know about lots and lots!
So no Posh Spice type plans for four or more?
I think two is lovely, but then you never know...
And if you did have more, would you go the celeby name route? Would, say, Harper Seven be a contender?!
It wouldn't be on my list personally but she had to really didn't she! I guess it is obviously very personal to them as Seven was his number. But only they could get away with it!
Boots' parenting club is at www.boots.com/en/Mother-Baby/Parenting-Club/