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!

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Peppa Pig (kinda…)

If anyone in the Gauteng area with children has somehow managed to miss this, Peppa, George, Mummy and Daddy and their friends are at Emperor’s Palace for a few days. And, as a part of her third birthday present, Stevie and I went on a Mummy and (eldest) Daughter day to watch it.

I have been so excited for today. Since we’ve had Elia, Stevie has been very Daddy-reliant, as you’d expect, and I’ve been dying for us to do something nice, just the two of us. Stevie was excited for the Peppa Pig portion of the day – I was excited for her excitement.

Emperor’s was heaving. I have never seen so many giddy toddlers in my life. We managed to get ourselves a snack box, a George cuddly toy and a magic glow stick before taking our (fantastic) seats. Stevie had just woken up from a nap on the way, so she was taking a while to come round / but she seemed happy to be there, taking in the whole atmosphere.

The first half was fantastic. The compére, ‘Anna,’ was very charismatic and her voice was great – and the puppets were nice and realistic, exactly what someone Stevie’s age would enjoy. Everything was very interactive, and the end-of-act-one section was excellent, with giant, bouncy beach balls floated across the crowd and bubbles floating down from the roof everywhere! The kids were going crazy! Well… most of them. Hmm. Something wasn’t quite right here.

We went to the loo in the break, but before we could buy a ‘busy pack,’ we were called back in again. On the way we passed our friends, Alésia and her daughter, Nikki, who wasn’t feeling or looking great. Then we sat down. The second half started where the last one picked up, with great singing and dancing and entertainment for everyone to join in with.

But unfortunately I couldn’t really pay attention to this bit, and nor could Stevie. She cuddled into me, not wanting a drink or any of the snack pack (I had eaten the crisps already). Something wasn’t quite right here. And, unfortunately, 20 minutes before the end, I ended up with toddler vomit down my top, doing a quick shuffle out of the theatre with a very lethargic (and disappointed) little girl.

So here, my review comes to an end. Neither Stevie, nor I, knows how the show came to a close. We managed to snag ourselves a queue-free busy pack, which was great. But the fun was over, as Stevie seemed to have the bug that has taken over the school (I don’t think it’s listeriosis, no panic! She’s fine now). We quickly called Daddy to come fetch us, and she slept the whole way home, cuddling her cuddly George.

I honestly thought I was more disappointed than Stevie. But, hey ho, we had fun and she enjoyed what she saw. But she did, honestly, break my heart when she felt better later on, and said, “Mummy, I’m not sick anymore. I want to see Peppa Pig.” So, disappointment all around but she obviously enjoyed the show. I actually enjoyed the show. And, therefore, it gets top marks from us.

Peppa Pig Live is at Emperor’s Palace until the 2nd April, and tickets are still somewhat available at Computicket.

On Breastfeeding and Working

Elia is now 8 weeks old. This past week, I’ve started expressing milk for when I return to work. Oh, the joys!

On average, a breastfed baby needs approximately 1 litre of breastmilk per 24 hours. So, by the time I go back to work, I’ll need the very bare minimum of 3 litres in the freezer for Elia. Thankfully, Stevie hasn’t taken breastmilk from a bottle since she was just over a year old – otherwise I’d be pumping my entire life away!

Just a snippet of what I left behind for Stevie

3 litres will last her roughly 3 days, so that’s allowing for a one day job and travel time. Ideally, I can get 4 litres. But I absolutely despise expressing.

I don’t have an issue, as far as ease goes. I’ve been blessed with a plentiful milk supply (seriously, you wanna see this stuff go shooting across the room on a let down) and 15 mins with a double electric Medela pump yields around 150ml easily. I just struggle to find the time to sit with a cup of coffee and pump. I also hate the sound of the machine and the feeling of it – breastfeeding an infant is a nice experience, but having your milk sucked out by a machine is, honestly, cow-like. Moo.

But I refuse to be beaten. The first time I went back to work after Stevie was born, I left enough milk bar two feeds. This time, I will beat my own record and leave surplus. Now I just need to motivate myself enough to sit every single day and remove it. Wish me luck!

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.

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!

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!

The Family Unit

Recently, I’ve been considering going back to work much sooner, after this baby, than I did after Stevie. Much as I hate to admit it to myself, my job and my independence are quite important to me.

Quite a few of my close friends and family have ‘warned’ me that, once the baby arrives, Stevie will become a lot closer to her Daddy. Now, for your standard life, this may well be completely true. And it’s not at all a bad thing – fathers or father figures (or just plain, simple parental figures who are not mum) are so important to children’s welfare.

But in our family, this is already happening. I went back to work when Stevie was 9 months old (yes, it was a very long maternity leave – that’s why I’d like to half it this time). So, from 9 months old, Daddy has looked after Stevie at least once a month without me.

I refuse to say he babysits – she’s his daughter, she’s as much his responsibility as she is mine, and therefore he is just looking after her solo.

I won’t be sad to leave my kids (yep, plural) with their daddy when I go back to work. I have no worries that they will love Daddy more than me, or that they’ll resent me. I don’t worry about him seeing more milestones than I will – because these are his children, too. I am so, so lucky to be married to a man who is happy to let me go to work, to let me earn some money, and who is happy to look after the kids, to nurture them and provide for them, and pace-feed them breastmilk in a bottle.

I know how privileged I am to be in this position. And I’m very aware that families are different – but this works so well for mine. I know some mothers struggle, and this isn’t meant to be smug. I am fully aware of how golden this situation is, and this is just a post of gratitude.

If anyone wants to follow my beautiful hubby on Instagram, his account is @petebolton07