Singer Rebecca Ferguson was distraught when her partner left her after discovering she was expecting, but now she wants to use her heartbreak to help others…
Rebecca Ferguson rose to fame after being the runner-up in The X Factor in 2010. Since then, the Liverpool-born singer has sold more than a million albums, achieved success stateside and just released her third album – a tribute to Billie Holiday – and starts a UK tour in January next year.
A single mum, Rebecca, 28, has two children, Karl, 10, and Lillie, nine, from her relationship with her former boyfriend Karl Dures, and an eight-month-old daughter, Arabella, fathered by a man she split from last year while she was expecting. Here, Rebecca reveals how Arabella’s arrival made her traumatic pregnancy worthwhile and why she has set up a new website to help support other single mums…
How was your pregnancy?
Very hard, and I’m angry I wished it away. I wanted to enjoy it but, because of everything going on in my life, I just couldn’t. Her father and I split when I told him I was pregnant, then I found out he’d been seeing another woman all along. I felt so fat, ugly and depressed and had horrendous morning sickness for the first few months. I couldn’t keep anything down! I was also touring the UK and Europe and couldn’t take time off, so I slept whenever I wasn’t on stage.
How did you cope with the rejection by Arabella’s father?
I lashed out at him and his partner on Twitter, then felt guilty about it. But I was so angry and couldn’t understand why he didn’t want our baby, or how his partner could stay with him, knowing how he’d treated me. My hormones and my head were all over the place because it’s natural to want to be with your baby’s father. My heart was broken and I cut myself off from friends and didn’t go out.
People must have thought I was crazy. But I’d tell any woman going though a similar thing, ‘You’re not mad, you’re just going through something so painful. Somehow you have to get those feelings out, and it will take you a while to get over it. It does get better.’ The minute I saw Arabella’s gorgeous little face I knew all the emotional pain that I had gone through had been worth it.
What type of birth had you planned?
I wanted a water birth, but Arabella was three weeks early. My womb kept contracting, so I was in slow labour for two weeks. In hospital I had strong contractions but was only dilating a couple of centimetres. The doctors had to break my waters to start me off.
Did you have any pain relief?
Just gas and air. I was screaming for an epidural, but it was too late because Arabella was out within an hour of me going into labour proper. She was 6lbs 13oz, so quite big for a premature baby. She had jaundice and was taken off to a light box, which was distressing because I really wanted to hold her and bond. We stayed in hospital for a week.
How did you cope with sleep deprivation?
Not easily. The first three weeks I was so sleep-deprived that I actually thought the curtains were talking to me! Then Arabella settled for a few months and started sleeping through, but now I’m up with her a few times a night.
How did Karl and Lillie react having a new baby sister?
At first Karl didn’t know what to do with Arabella, but now she’s older he loves playing with her. Lillie’s just like a little mummy and very protective.
How much weight did you put on?
A couple of stone, although I think I looked skinnier pregnant than I do now! I was a size eight when I got pregnant and I’m normally 10/12, but my boobs went up to E, when I’m normally a B/C. I’m breastfeeding, so hope they don’t shrink back afterwards!
How have you got back into shape?
I live in a little village outside London and walk up and down hills a lot. But I’m going back to the gym soon to start toning up. After having Karl and Lillie, I over-dieted, so this time I’ve just let it happen naturally.
How will you balance being a new mum again with your forthcoming tour?
By the time I start the tour, Arabella will be one year old and I’ll have stopped breastfeeding. Karl and Lillie always come backstage to my gigs after school when they can, and Arabella is with me all the time.
What help do you have?
My mum and my nanny, Elaine, are a great help with getting Karl and Lillie to school, and things like doing the washing, because I’ve been working so much. They’ll be invaluable when I’m on tour.
What’s been the biggest challenge of having a baby this time around?
Adapting to not having much freedom. Because Karl and Lillie are older, I’d got used to going out and socialising with friends when I wanted.
Has Arabella started showing any noticeable personality traits?
She’s very wilful. Also her nickname is ‘Cheeky’, because whenever you pick her up she gives you the most wonderful grin, even if she’s been crying like the world has ended.
Three things I’d tell a single mum-to-be
- Forgive and let go. You can’t move forward until you stop feeling angry and bitter that you’re going through your pregnancy on your own.
- Don’t waste time feeling guilty. I’ve spoken to lots of single mums whose ex-partners have made them feel not good enough and even blamed them for getting pregnant. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about – just be the best mum you can be.
- Wait until you’re emotionally healed before you start another relationship. If you rush into it you could end up settling for someone else who is not right.
Rebecca’s album Lady Sings the Blues is out now. Her tour starts in January 2016.