Back to Work!

I never intended on going straight back to work after I had Elia. To be honest, I was still reeling from the 26+kg I put on with Stevie, resulting in a further 9 months of maternity leave after she was born, that I was assuming, due to being healthier this time, I could go back to work when Elia is 6 months or so.

But here’s the thing – I’ve lost my weight already. I’m back in my 26in jeans, and, much as I’m not in my favourite, model ‘shape,’ I’m not looking too bad. And with that, comes work.

So, this weekend, leaving behind a hard-worked for 3 litres (yes, really) of breastmilk in the freezer, I boarded a flight to Cape Town, to work with the lovely James Harvest crew. 3 days of work, 3 nights from my babies. Never had I dreamt I’d be doing this again with a 3-and-a-half-month-old baby.

And it was fine. My mum sent me a message on the Sunday, after spending part of the weekend with Pete and the girls, to tell me how proud she is of him for being such a good parent (well, duh, Mama) and how proud she is of me for going away. That was lovely, and so reassuring. Of course, I really missed the girls and Pete. Mostly in the nights, when I’d wake up to express milk, and have to go back to sleep in a cold, empty bed. And, much as I love FaceTime, when Stevie fell and hurt herself mid-conversation, it pained my heart to know I couldn’t be there to comfort her.

But we all came through it. I was very, very spoiled with my first trip back. Not a high shot count, amazing locations and food, well-organised and nice people: I felt like I was working 10 years ago! Such a lovely shoot to slowly get back into the swing of things.

I can honestly say, I’m still pushing for July to be when I make my first, official foray back into work. But if jobs like this come up in between now and then, I definitely won’t be turning them down. It’s a nice way to dip my feet back in the working waters. Pus, I got to eat a hot breakfast with both hands, which is always a bonus!

PS – the nicest part of the whole thing, of course, was coming home. Those two little faces lit up when they realised Mummy was back, and Stevie’s been telling every person she sees today. It’s worth going away just for that!

Advertisements

Darren and Alex

Darren Gwynn and Alex Botha are two of Johannesburg’s best fashion talents (well, Darren was until he decided to up and move back to London, where he assisted Rankin for a few years before coming back to Jozi – but he still returns for shoots). Darren shot me in the amazing Huf magazine story Uthuli Africa, and I’ve shot countless things with Alex.

They decided to collaborate on a beauty series a couple of years ago, and asked me to be the subject of one of their photographs. It’s now been made available for sharing.

Note to anyone interested – white paint isn’t solid enough to cover hair, and sudocrem coupled with powder works better ( but is a complete bitch to get out).

I love this pic. It turned out so nice! They really are a dream team.

Baby Things – Good or a Waste?

So recently my friend Billie Brown, of Young London Mum, asked me for my list of what’s good, and what’s not-so-good, to buy for baby. I thought I’d post my recommendations here – and add a couple more, of course!

1. Top 5 Buys

– a stretchy baby wrap. I now have two that I interchange. I started with a Jojo Maman Bebe wrap with Stevie, and now with Elia I primarily use a Mona Lisa Mamas wrap (a homegrown South African company). You can also make your own using t-shirt fabric!

– a baby bath seat. We bought one for Stevie originally in the UK, and we bought another one for her when we loved to SA. We now also use it for Elia- babies are slippery to hold in the bath, and much as it sounds lovely to bathe with them all the time, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

– a good bouncer/rocker. Brand really doesn’t matter (although we love our Tiny Love rocker), just find one you like and it’ll prove invaluable – so handy for when you need that 5 mins just to have a quick shower or make a cup of tea.

-a great quality, long-wearing travel system. We have the iCandy Peach, which we bought before Stevie was born. We did a LOT of research into different brands, and we liked the giant wheels and the slightly higher vantage point of the seat. Besides missing a bar (I think it’s still in my cousin’s car) it’s lasted us well for 3 years! It fits either a Maxi Cosi or BeSafe car seat, then has the pram attachment and the buggy. Stevie still uses the buggy bit, and Elia has taken over using the car seat and pram. Special shout out to the BeSafe car seat, which has also lasted 3 years!

Mimijumi bottles. Essential for a breastfeeding mum with a boob monster! The shape mimics that of a breast and baby needs to suck to get out milk, thus making it the closest bottle to a boob. Weirdly, it even looks like a slightly odd nipple! Every other bottle was useless for us – Stevie refused anything but the real thing until this bottle came along. It’s pricey, but totally worth it.

– a baby nest. We stupidly left our Sleepyhead sleep pod in storage in the UK, but we found a new one! A must for any mum, it can create a safe co-sleeping space (nice, firm walls) or a safe space where they still feel cocooned inside their cot.

2. Useless things

– Tommee Tippee breast pump. Sorry to the makers of this breastpump, but if I’d have known how long I’d be feeding for (nearly 3 years now) and how much expressing would have to happen per trip (hi, model who looks like a dairy cow in designer clobber) I’d have gone straight for the big guns in the form of the Medela Swing and saved myself a load of hassle. Frugal doesn’t always mean sensible!

The joys of pumping and travelling – this is on a 16-hour direct flight on the way back from Mexico

– Moses basket. Thankfully we didn’t invest in one, but we know lots of people who did and who weren’t happy. It’s cumbersome to move with one hand (whilst holding baby) and just gets in the way – and baby grows out of it so quickly, it just seems a waste of space.

– breastfeeding pillows. I used one with Stevie, but I haven’t needed one at all with Elia – I’ve realised far too late that any cushion will do the same job!

– dresses for girls and fussy clothes for boys, in the 0-6 month size category. Super cute but totally uncomfortable and impractical! Our girls have been stuck in them for photos, but for everyday wear, stick to a cute baby grow or trouser/top combo.

– expensive baby clothes. Okay, so this one is kind of a given – but it’s still true. Babies wear their clothes for maximum 3-4 months, and I guarantee that they’ll poo/puke in the most expensive item you own. My MIL bought a beautiful Petit Bateau baby grow for Stevie, white velvet with a Peter Pan collar. So pretty, but the Cursed Onesie. If we ever needed her to have a poonami, we’d pop her in that. Rather stick to Asda/Tesco or Morrisons clothes in the beginning – they wash nicely and you won’t get upset if your child explodes in them!

Late Pregnancy and a Black Tie Do (or two)

I love a good wedding. I love a bad wedding, too, but then I don’t really believe there are bad weddings. But weddings are great.

Not so great (read: nerve-wracking) is dressing for a wedding at 6.5 months pregnant. And then again, and 8 months pregnant (my sister gave me a get-out-of-jail-free card with hers, with an infinity bridesmaid dress – more on that later).

What does one wear to a black tie do when you’ve got a giant, bowling ball of a bump protruding from your midriff?

Well, here were my thought processes, and eventual outfits.

First of all – consider the weather. Both weddings were well above the 28 degree range, so definitely height of summer. No clingy, jersey fabrics for the bump this time – flattering as they are, I’d rather not Invite sweat to drop down my forehead more than it already has to. Also, sweaty bump equals itchy bump. Not nice. And riding-up-the-sweaty-legs never did anybody any favours.

So it needed to be floaty. That cancelled out half of my pregnancy wardrobe, so that was easy. My next problem was my legs.

I work hard on my legs. When I’m not pregnant, these little old legs of mine are a mark of pride. I run for miles, squat and lunge and box jump for days on end, just to keep these little leggies of mine toned and cellulite free. Pregnant me still squats, even now at 36 weeks, but, hello, water rentention, welcome, cellulite. I don’t feel at all comfortable showing off my legs when I know there’ll be a camera and plenty of leggy ladies around. So the dress needed to be long.

I didn’t want to buy a maternity dress that I’d never wear again, so I found myself at the Stuttafords closing down sale (RIP, Stuttafords, you will be very sorely missed by me) and staring at a brightly patterned, slightly-too-big, Banana Republic tent dress. Perfect – the pattern would flatter the belly nicely, it was nice and floaty, and – bonus – I will be able to wear it cinched in with a nice belt, once the bump has turned into a baby. Result!The biggest bonus of this dress turned out to be the weather – it was unseasonably hot in Michigan for the time of year, and my tent dress saved me from heatstroke. I felt pretty, cool(ish) and comfortable. We danced the night away until 9pm ish, when Stevie fell asleep on the dance floor in my arms, to the sounds of Jay Z. What a wedding.The second wedding was my sister’s, where I was a bridesmaid. I was picked to be said bridesmaid way before I fell pregnant again. There was a brief worry that my sister would disown me – just joking. Thankfully, she chose custom made infinity dresses. Saviour! A gazillion different ways to tie the straps, empire line before my ribs stretched, and, again, cool and floaty and comfortable. The best thing about infinity dresses is that you don’t have to be the bridesmaid to wear one. One of my best friends wore a beautiful purple one to my wedding years ago. If you’re ever pregnant and concerned, and can’t find a Banana Republic tent dress, go for the infinity dress. You will wear it again! Just make sure to take nipple pasties (thanks to my other sister and sister in law) and no-show knickers. If you’re that way inclined, pregnancy spanks will work, too.There are countless ways on Pinterest on how to tie an infinity dress, but we just went for it on the day. And, trust me, I was super comfortable. If you’re the type of pregnant lady who feels confident in everything when carrying a baby, or who doesn’t get cellulite-y legs, then you can probably ignore my advice and go for what you fancy. But this worked for me. Comfort is always key. Good luck!Unfortunately for us here in South Africa, now that Stuttafords has permanently closed, there seems to be nowhere else to buy Banana Republic other than their website Banana Republic. Hopefully this will change, soon.

Your Pregnancy Magazine

As a blog reader will already know, I recently shot Your Pregnancy magazine with the lovely Aubrey Jonsson. The pics have now been published! I am so happy to have more memories to show my children.

Look how small the bump is! Your Pregnancy magazine is currently on shelves in South African shops.

A Mum and Dad Love Story

Yesterday, we were with friends when someone asked me “What were you doing, this time 8 years ago?”

I answered, tongue-in-cheek, “Trying to get in my best friend’s pants.” This friend, who we know very well, just said, “Well, how did that go?”

I pointed at my best friend, and said, “I think it went pretty well, eventually.” My mum piped up, “Well, she did marry him…”

It got me wondering – very few of us share the stories around how we actually met our other halves, or how we came to be together. It’s the sort of subject that’s only really brought up on a drunken night around a fire. So, in the sharing spirit, here’s ours.

Babies!

In May, 2009, I was cast, last minute, in Wrangler denim’s lookbook/catalogue/campaign. All I was told was that it would be shooting in Las Vegas, where I’d been 6 months prior to shoot, and that there would be a male model. I was told his name, and asked a couple of male model friends whether they knew him – I sussed out he was Northern, like me, and a ‘nice guy.’ So far, so good – and nothing new. I saw a picture of him at a different casting, and I really didn’t think he’d be my type.

This is the picture I saw – he looked nothing really like this!

Fast forward to Heathrow T3, a few days later. I knew we’d most likely be flying together to Vegas, and lo and behold, at the gate, earphones on and waiting to board, was the guy I was working with. He was so engrossed in what he was doing, I left him to it, deciding to catch him after the flight.

But fate intervened. A few hours in, as I was waiting for the loo, as the toilet flushes, out comes this incredibly handsome young man. That picture definitely did not do him justice – he had huge, aqua-coloured eyes, cheekbones to die for and dimples like you’ve never seen. Plus, his hair kept falling across his face, which was pretty adorable.

We started chatting, and he let someone else in the queue before me so we didn’t have to stop. Sadly for me, he mentioned his girlfriend straight away – but he was such a nice guy, and we got along pretty well. We didn’t see each other for the next couple of hours, but once we got to Vegas we were inseparable.

Funny interject, here – Pete told me, about 5 years into our relationship, after we were married, that he’d actually let the person in the loo before me because he’d just *ahem* done a number 2 and was terrified of me judging him if I went in after him. That still makes me giggle, now.

Meanwhile, we are in Vegas, and had both recently turned 21, so that evening we shared a couple of beers by our hotel. The job was great fun, and we got on like a house on fire – Pete was from Leeds, close to my hometown of Manchester, and there were 6 months between us. He’d been with his girlfriend a few years (booooooo) and she was a student. On the last night, we went into the casinos and got very drunk – very good fun. On landing in London, we exchanged numbers and promised to stay friends.

Terrible quality Blackberry photo of one night in Vegas

This story is in danger of rambling, so I’ll try to rush it along. Fast forward to Paris, in July 2009 – I was on stay for a couple of weeks with two friends, and it coincidentally mens’ fashion week. So we met up, a big group of us, and went out drinking and dancing. Two nights in a row. And, my goodness, this man got stuck in my head. I fancied the pants off him – and he had a girlfriend! So not fair – so I snagged his friend. Childish, I know.

On return to London, we decided we’d had such fun in Paris, as a big group, that the nights out partying and dancing until the early hours continued. At the time, my sister, Hollie, worked as a promoter for various high-end London nightclubs, and because we’re models, we got in for free. We went out probably 6 nights a week – and Pete and I became very close. We’d spend time outside the nightclubs in the daytime, watching movies or having coffee in town. I never once lost my feelings for him, but he became one of my best friends. I dated other guys (partially to try to make him jealous) but nothing ever came of it. My mum, upon meeting Pete, was determined he was the man I would marry (well done, Mama).

Round about Xmas, 2009

Unfortunately, by the time Pete’s girlfriend was due to come back to London to stay for a while, my feelings had grown pretty strong. To this day, he denies ever knowing how deep my feelings were for him, until I told him I couldn’t see him or be around him anymore. I never gave him an ultimatum or asked him to leave his girlfriend – I would never have known how he really felt if he’d been pushed one way or the other. We didn’t see each other for over two weeks (which was a lot, for us) until he sent me a message whilst I was working in Germany, telling me he’d broken up with her. I was so elated, I vomited. I know – I’m a closet romantic.

Our first Hallowe’en together

The rest is kind of history – we actually took things fairly slow. I don’t think I referred to Pete as ‘my boyfriend’ for a good 4 months, and we didn’t say the ‘L’ word for about 6-7 months. We felt no need to rush. We lived in NYC for the majority of the start of our relationship, and saw each other probably for 2 days a week as we were so busy travelling with work. We got engaged in August, 2012, and married a week before Xmas in 2013 – 3 and a half years after becoming ‘a couple.’ Then Stevie followed, and now the other is on the way!

Share your stories with me – how did you meet your other halves? I love these tales – I really am a romantic!

Baby Brain

I hold up my hands, here. I’m struggling big time with the dreaded baby brain.

In a 2014 study by the University of London, evidence showed that Baby Brain is a real thing, brought on by pregnant women automatically using the right side (the emotional side) of their brains more than their left, in order to prepare for bonding with their newborn.

I don’t care about the reason, really – all I know is I have a foggy brain and can barely remember what day it is.

Last week, I had a list in my head of three blog posts to write. I wrote one of them, and I can honestly say I’ve forgotten what the other two were!

All I can focus on is keeping Stevie happy, and this small being inside me that sometimes looks and feels like it’s trying to escape like something from Alien.

So I apologise in advance about what I imagine will be a completely erratic blog from now on.

Now, what day is it, again?

Pregnancy photo shoots

It’s weird being pregnant and being a model. My entire life is made up of photo shoot after photo shoot, contorting my body in ways to make myself look even more lithe and long than I already am, in order to make a more appealling picture.

But being pregnant and modelling is completely different. Firstly, there aren’t as many pregnancy shoots as everyone thinks. Sure, I modeled up until 16 weeks, but then once I started showing I had to stop for a while. I’ve done two shoots for Your Pregnancy magazine, which were great, but this time, unlike with Stevie, I decided to try something different. I actually did a real pregnancy shoot with my friend Tahlecia.

Last time I shot with Tahlecia, it was a hair job and I was about 9 weeks pregnant. So normal business. This time was different and strange, but so lovely. This time it was just Tahlecia and I, so she did my hair and make up and just the two of us got me set up in her amazing home studio.

We’d already shared inspiration pictures, so we knew exactly what look we were going for – think of all the Victoria’s Secret models when they do pregnancy shoots: sleek, natural and just nice. No excessive make up and hair, or overdone outfits. Just me, the bump, a pair of baggy Acne jeans and my favourite, white H&M shirt.

Mega pregnancy inspiration right there – thanks, Behati!

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but they took us about 45 mins to shoot and I’m so happy I did them. I’m not one of those people who loves being pregnant, but neither am I the girl who hates it. I’m kind of indifferent, but I do feel as though I’ll have some very valuable memories to last me from this pregnancy.

Holiday Ponderings… AKA Thoughts by the Pool

Stevie is fast asleep. She was in the pool from about 8.30am until about 45 minutes ago. I knew Pisces children were ‘fish,’ but I honestly didn’t take it that seriously. I’ve learnt my lesson – and I’m VERY glad we have a pool fence at home. Otherwise my pregnant self would be having a heart attack every half an hour.

Holiday may seem like a strange time to write a blog post on the state of your pregnant body, but when I’m the only one in and I’m alone by the pool in a bikini with my ridiculously hot sister-in-law as my company, it’s natural I start thinking about it.

My job has made me possibly more conscious of my body than usual, and this time, second pregnancy, it’s interesting to note how different things can be.

We all know no two babies and pregnancies are the same. I’ve said before that I put on more than 20kg with Stevie – but that 20kg number was after she was born. Tall people can possibly carry more, but even so, for someone with a low BMI (if you believe in that sort of thing) the recommended maximum amount of weight is 18kg.

Pregnant with Stevie at 28 weeks – I’d been eating all the food for a while here. You just can’t see my enormous behind!

This time, I’ve been determined to do things differently – and I can already feel (and, thankfully, see) the difference. I can still fit in my pre-pregnancy jeans – if only actually closing them wasn’t such a big deal for me! I can take a photo and not worry about looking like a different person – which was the biggest deal in my last pregnancy, for me. I didn’t look (or feel) like myself.

I’ve been working out (gently) throughout. Now we’re on holiday, I’m in the pool with my little fish every single moment. I have a tan, which obviously helps. But the main thing is – I’m eating exactly the same as I did before I got pregnant!

Generally speaking, a pregnant woman does not need any more calories in the first trimester than usual, and she only needs an additional 340 calories a day in the second trimester (where I am now). That’s the equivalent of a large smoothie, or half a bar of chocolate – not a lot, when you think about it. In the third trimester, that goes up to 450 calories per day, which equates to a large snack or an extra small meal. So much for the ‘eating for two’ I did in my first pregnancy!

In other news, my bump is enormous and I’ve got terrible reflux. I’m fairly sure the two are connected (reflux occurs when baby pushes all the organs up towards the diaphragm). Is my bump bigger because I’ve put less weight on this time? Possibly – but every pregnancy is, after all, different. Maybe this baby is bigger? Who knows – we’ll find out when he/she arrives!

What do you think I’m having? Has anyone had suck hugely different pregnancies before? Let me know – I love feedback!