Actress Katherine Kelly was ready to pile on the pain relief when she had daughter Orla, but she hadn’t banked on a speedy delivery…
Katherine Kelly, 35, made her name as brash-but-lovable Becky McDonald in Coronation Street. She then went on to co-star in ITV’s Mr Selfridge. Now she’s plunging herself into a new role – that of mum to Orla, one, who was born in March last year in husband Ryan Clark’s native Australia. Katherine and digital analyst Ryan married in 2013 and live in London.
Katherine has just finished starring in the musical City of Angels in London. With several new projects in the pipeline, Katherine tells M&B about Orla’s birth and how she’s learning on the job when it comes to juggling being a mum with her work as an in-demand TV and theatre star…
What was your pregnancy like?
I felt really sick for the first three months. I was still filming Mr Selfridge, but hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant, except my co-star Frances O’Connor. The crew kept finding me leaning out of open windows. Then I literally woke up 12 weeks to the day not feeling sick at all. It was a pretty good pregnancy.
What was your birth experience like?
Orla was two weeks overdue and I was absolutely huge. She was 9lbs when she arrived. When I look back at pictures now I realise how massive I was. I was only in labour for four and a half hours – I was so lucky. We didn’t even miss a night’s sleep. But it was thick and fast, there’s no such thing as an easy labour.
Did you have pain relief?
No. My friends say they can’t believe I didn’t have any drugs. But I’m no martyr. I was like, ‘Get the drugs lined up, I’ll do whatever it takes to get this baby out healthy.’ I had one friend who went into in labour at the same time as me, but didn’t have her baby until two days later. She couldn’t believe I had no drugs, but I would have if I’d been in labour for two days! It was all over before I even had time to ask for gas and air. I gave birth in Melbourne and they’re quite holistic out there, so I was in the zone for an all-natural birth.
Was it a conscious decision to have your baby in Australia?
I knew I wanted to have a year’s maternity leave with Orla, so we thought we’d do it there because it was the only chance we’d have to spend that amount of time in Oz. It was amazing to spend time with Ryan and his family.
How did you feel when you first brought Orla home from hospital?
There were times when I felt clueless, but Mum and Dad came over the first month. I was so grateful, because no matter how many books you read about having a baby, nothing prepares you for when it actually happens.
Did you struggle with returning to work?
Yes, going back to work was really hard. We haven’t got family round the corner, because Ryan’s are in Oz and mine are 200 miles north. When I was in Oz, I knew I’d be doing the show in London in September and I had a few sleepless nights wondering what I’d do with Orla. I take my hat off to working mums and especially single working mums. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
How are you coping with balancing motherhood and work?
It’s really hard being a working mum. It’s a constant logistical operation. And I’ve started to learn how to say no to work. Orla goes to a brilliant nursery a couple of afternoons a week, just down the road from where we live. When I’m off, I’ll have Orla at home all day, which is something I make the most of when it happens.
How’s Orla’s development coming along?
Great. She had eight teeth at eight months. She’s getting all her back teeth now, which seems to be very painful. She’s almost walking – she can stand on her own walking in between my legs with the pram. She’s started to speak and ‘Dada’ was her first word. She says ‘Mama’ too and she definitely understands a lot. She’s a real tomboy and loves to wrestle and roll around on the floor.
Do you think becoming a mum has made you a better person?
It’s definitely taught me more about patience. You also have to be selfless, but it’s worth it. They’re tiny little things that make you a better person. And Orla brings me so much joy.
How did you celebrate Orla’s first birthday in March?
We went to my mum and dad’s in Yorkshire and had a party at this children’s farm – a place called Cannon Hall Farm. I used to go there as a kid, but now they’ve got a soft play area and a petting zoo. We first took Orla there when she was eight months old, but this time she loved it even more.
And you’ve just been on your first family holiday…
Yes, we went on a two-week cruise and it was fantastic. Of course it was magical seeing our baby on the beach for the first time, discovering sand with the waves crashing in. What was great was that it was so child-friendly. We got to know all the staff on the ship and they weren’t bothered when Orla was throwing her food around. And she discovered food we’d never thought of giving her – she wolfed down breaded shrimp like crazy.
Katherine’s gallery of photos:
3 things I wish I knew before I became a mum
1. Bank as much sleep as you can before the baby comes. It’s easy when you’re overdue to get impatient and just want to meet the baby.
2. Get organised. I’m looking at jobs in the house that won’t get done now for the next 10 years, like the pile of paperwork I should have signed off before Orla arrived.
3. Don’t focus too much on the birth itself. It is a small part of parenthood and as long as your baby arrives safely and you’re OK, it doesn’t matter how she enters the world.
Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/REX