Edwina Bartholomew On Ticking Career Boxes Before Havings Kids
Australian TV Presenter, Edwina Bartholomew, entered motherhood in the midst of a global pandemic, in the public eye and just as her husband lost his job. How would she describe it? Joyful & Wonderful! Today, she’s reflecting on 2020, the beauty of living in a newborn bubble as well as the power of having a mother’s group.
When Australia’s Sunrise Presenter & The Daily Telegraph Columnist, Edwina Bartholomew, became a mother to Molly in December 2019, she was admittedly not anticipating that her first year of motherhood would bring a global pandemic, take her husband’s job, prompt her to temporarily swap Sydney for the country and inspire her to launch an online mother’s group.
While she admits that it was stressful and challenging, the ever-positive and exuberant Edwina B always knows how to turn lemons into lemonade.
‘Now that people, myself included, have had a chance to reflect on 2020 and gain clarity on who and what’s important to them, it’s extraordinary to acknowledge what a transformative experience it’s been. My husband, Neil, and I were lucky that Molly was born in December because it meant that we had about two months where friends could drop over, my family could spend time with Molly and I could attend Mother’s Group. I really feel for the people who had a baby post-February or in March, because they didn’t get to have that opportunity.
Early in lockdown, I was speaking to my friend, Heidi Anderson, and reflecting on how supportive and life-saving our in-person Mothers’ Groups had been. Knowing that social distancing would prevent new moms from getting the same sense of community we had been lucky enough to receive, we decided to create Stay Home Mums, an Instagram account intended to be a virtual mothers’ group for all.
Today, the account has evolved into so much more. Now operating under @my.mothers.group, we have proudly assembled an Avengers-style team of experts to bring parents pregnancy, birth, baby, parenting advice and, of course, humor!’
As someone who spent much of her childhood living abroad in places like Japan and Malaysia, Edwina loves how universal motherhood is across borders and cultures. In fact, many of Edwina and her husband, Neil’s, early conversations around starting a family actually centered on wanting to recreate their childhoods.
‘Due to my dad’s job with BHP, my siblings and I spent a lot of time in Asia before heading back to Sydney for boarding school. It was a really fantastic upbringing because I got to develop so much knowledge of the world, a thirst for travel as well as a great appreciation for other cultures and landscapes. I also think it put me in really good stead for my career as a journalist. I would love for Molly to get to experience the same childhood experiences. I was planning to take Molly with me to Japan to cover the Olympics, but obviously, COVID happened. If it does move forward, it might be an even more fun experience seeing as she’ll be that little bit older.
Neil grew up in the New South Wales countryside and had this beautiful free-range life. We bought a farm in that area a few years ago, because we wanted our kid(s) to have a solid base. I never really had the one house because we constantly moved homes for work or were never anywhere full-time. I think it’s really nice now to have that base, especially one that tries to emulate the childhood that Neil had as a young kid.’
For nearly two decades, Edwina has been working non-stop as one of Australia’s most respected and beloved journalists. While she always knew she wanted to have kids, she is happy that she ticked a lot of career boxes before making that decision.
‘At 37, I’m kind of late to the game of starting a family, but it’s been really good for me. Because I felt so content in my professional life, I didn’t (and don’t) have any kind of resentment or angst around stepping away to take time out to raise Molly and have time together as a family, you know? I have also watched so many incredible women around me have babies and maintain their careers while maintaining the strange work hours that come with doing network television.
In some ways, the erratic hours are quite suited to a young baby because I wake up at 3:15 am, leave the house at 4 am and am on my way home from work around 9:30 am. While I might have other commitments throughout the day, my core work is kind of completed before everyone even starts work.
However, even though Neil did lose his job early in the pandemic, he quickly found another which meant we needed to put in some sort of support system to help balance life with Molly. We’ve had two really great nannies who’ve been able to help us out. I also stay with my parents a couple of nights a week. I think we’ve sort of just kind of juggled it all to make it work.’
As someone who’s lived so much of her life in the public eye/ works vampire hours, we asked Edwina what it was like preparing to have a baby as well as how she felt about sharing her pregnancy news.
‘I was slightly worried that because I had worked such strange hours for so long that my body would be tired, exhausted and essentially not up for the task. I proactively saw a naturopath who recommended a few supplements, focused on exercise, saw an acupuncturist and essentially made sure I was in the best shape possible. In the end, we fell pregnant naturally and aside from stacking on 60+ pounds, I was completely fine.
In terms of how I felt once I was pregnant: I was honestly mostly fine. One zinc supplement made me feel a little bit ill so I cut back on that, but other than that, I just ate a lot of toast in the early hours. I think everyone at work realized that I was pregnant long before I told them because I was just kind of downing peanut butter toast by the loaf.
As for announcing our pregnancy, I definitely wanted to make sure we had done all the tests and made sure that everything was okay before going public. My obstetrician assured us that there were no glaring health issues that he could foresee, which put us at ease. To be honest, the most difficult and confronting part was having to become super pregnant in front of our viewers’ eyes. I never went through the ‘I feel so glamorous and like a pregnant goddess phase.’ I just kind of got larger and larger and larger and more tired and more tired and more tired. Compared to some women, God bless them, who end up just with a little bump out the front… That was not me. I found that hard on a personal level, but everything was tracking along and everything was fine with Molly and me health-wise, so I’m grateful for that.’
One of the things we love most about Edwina is how laid-back and cruisy she is. When chatting with her about her birth, we laughed out loud as she described herself as ‘a very disorganized pregnant woman.’
‘Nope. No birth plan. I didn’t even update my private health insurance in time. I’m normally fairly organized, but I was told very early on that the best birth plan was to have no plan. I took that as my cue to be really relaxed about the whole thing. We did take birth classes and had a lovely obstetrician, but I wasn’t fanatic about knowing every single detail about what will happen. I thought I’ll just kind of just go with the flow. And in the end, I think that just really ended up with a really relaxed situation for birth and also beyond. I’ve sort of taken that attitude into parenting as well. And as a result, you know, Molly’s a super relaxed, happy child, who also just kind of rolls with it, which is lovely.
In the end, I was two weeks over and induced. I felt like I was in the hospital for a lot of time. I had all the drugs, including the happy gas, which I very much enjoyed, I thought that I was hilarious. It was like I was doing some sort of comedy routine, except I was the only one who thought it was funny.
Because my labor was going on for so long, I had two epidurals. (Which the second one may have just been a placebo to appease me.) I’m not terribly good with pain at the best of times, but compared to some of the stories I heard, my experience was not horrific. It was just long and exhausting.
Molly actually came out on the side and facing Neil so he got to see her eyes open and stare right at him. It was really a beautiful, beautiful moment for him, for them to connect. I love that childbirth is a shared experience by so many women in the world in different countries, in so many different ways and there are so many different ideas of how to go about it. I just thought it was a really primal experience, the most wonderful way.’
Even though Edwina and Neil had made arrangements around taking feedings in shifts as well as what the early newborn days would look like, Edwina admits she found the first few weeks really overwhelming.
‘Because Neil and I were taking turns with getting up with Molly, during those first few nights, you sort of feel like it’s just the two of you. While it was an overall wonderful bonding experience, it was also kind of overwhelming because you have no idea what you’re doing. I found that really, really tough. Slowly we got it together and found a rhythm.
A week after Molly was born, Australia experienced horrific fires, which meant that Neil had to go to our farm to make sure it wasn’t going to burn down. My mum ended up coming to stay with me, which I love because now she and Molly have this great relationship and I feel super comfortable leaving Molly with her. As the mother of three kids and a former early childhood educator, my mum has this innate knowledge and has a wonderful way with children. She knows all the songs and all the games. The experience has brought my mum and me even closer together.’
Just as Molly approached the three-month mark, the world hit pause due to the outbreak of Covid-19. With the fires at bay, Edwina and Neil decided to move their little family of three to their farm.
‘One of the positives I’ve taken away from becoming a parent in 2020, is that we got to extend that newborn bubble you experience. Even though it was kind of forced upon us, lockdown meant that we ended up with a slow, laidback time connecting as a family.
If I could impart any wisdom, it would be: trust that whatever you’re doing is the right thing for you and your baby. Every parent-child relationship is unique and special. By trusting yourself, you can block out the various opinions and various experts and all the kind of stuff you read online.
Even though I had read lots of parenting books and asked friends for advice, having this time as a little family unit allowed me to learn that mothers develop an innate knowledge that will kick in when you have a baby.’
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