At the beautiful Surrey home of Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins, there’s a new addition to the family.
‘Baby Girl’ bunting hangs above the fireplace, while 16-week-old Ella Rose lies in a wicker crib woven by Charlotte’s mum-in-law Sheila. Charlotte, 40, is basking in being a mum.
Talk turns to christening plans. Ella Rose will wear Charlotte’s family christening gown for the service in Chichester Cathedral, where Charlotte’s dad was a clergyman. Sadly, he died from motor neurone disease one month before Ella Rose was born.
Charlotte, married for six years to businessman Mark Herbert, 41, tells M&B about her daughter’s unexpected conception and how she geared herself up to giving birth at Number 10.
How long had you been trying for a baby?
Four years, so we’d started down the IVF route. We’d just filled out all the paperwork when I found out I was pregnant! I was a day or so late, so
did a test at 3am before work. We’re lucky that it happened at all – and particularly that it happened naturally.
Why do you think it finally happened?
I work funny hours, doing a stressful job. But I’d had a few weeks off in between jobs and just started at Good Morning Britain. Pregnancy was the last thing on my mind. Maybe it helped that I wasn’t worrying about it.
Did anyone suspect you were pregnant?
I said, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t guess!’ to [Good Morning Britain co-presenter] Ben Shephard. I went from eating fruit to biscuits. He was like: ‘I just thought you liked biscuits.’ Morning sickness meant I wanted comfort foods: mashed potato, biscuits, pastries. When I felt a bit more normal, salad still didn’t cut it. I wanted pizza. I stopped weighing myself when I’d put on 2 stone!
Didn’t you go to Downing Street for an event a week before your due date?
Yes, I spent the evening wishing my waters would break, as it would have been a great story. I’m not sure how David Cameron would have felt about me giving birth in his front room!
When did you go into labour?
I was a week overdue when I started having contractions late one night. We drove to hospital, then my contractions slowed down. The next evening, the pain got worse. [Fellow Good Morning Britain presenter] Kate Garraway had given me a TENS machine, which kept me sane, because in the pre-assessment ward they didn’t have gas and air.
I decided to have an epidural, which was a good decision. I went into the delivery suite on the Saturday evening and 19 hours later Ella Rose was born.
How tricky was your labour?
They were monitoring the baby’s heart rate all through the night in case she went into distress. They did say they might have to do a c-section, but they were hoping to be able to deliver her naturally, which they did. I had faith that they would get her out safely.
How did you feel when she arrived?
It was overwhelming. You’re exhausted but it’s amazing to meet this tiny being you’ve carried around for nine months. I was in love with her the moment
I saw her. When they put her on my chest I couldn’t stop staring at her
– I didn’t want that moment to end.
How was Mark during the labour?
He was really calm. When I was about to give birth he was at the end of the bed and I was like, ‘It’s not a spectator sport, get back here!’ After Ella Rose came out and was put on my chest, I was still pushing. I was in another place.
How long did you stay in hospital?
I was there another two days because I needed a blood transfusion. My iron levels had dropped so low after giving birth that my body was going into shock. It explained why after the birth I had no energy to do anything.
How did you cope with losing your dad before the birth?
I tried not to get too upset, because I felt it as a physical pain and I was worried about the baby. All the feelings about Dad are still there. Knowing that he was up there looking out for me kept me going because I thought ‘he won’t let anything bad happen’.
How did the early starts on Good Morning Britain prepare you for being a mum?
Nothing can prepare you. For the first week Ella Rose slept non-stop. Then I had days when she didn’t sleep. People say ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’, but I was on such a high that I wanted to watch her sleep.
Are you planning to get a nanny?
We’ll have help when I go back to work. Mark will manage the early mornings, then I’ll be home by lunch. I’m looking forward to going back to work, but leaving Ella Rose will be a big wrench. In an ideal world, I’d smuggle her in and keep her under the desk!
Good Morning Britain, weekdays, from 6am