Being Mama: Louise Roe
Breast pads on the red carpet? This mama pulled it off. We find out how Hollywood presenter and lifestyle blogger Louise Roe manages motherhood in style.
Heading back to work post-baby is never easy, but what if your office is the Oscars red carpet? “Oh my gosh, that was intense!” says Louise Roe, the affable Brit whose business it is to interview A-listers as they enter the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys and Grammys for NBC’s Access. “Honor was six weeks old and I squeezed myself into a gown, complete with breast pads for leakage, and took my pump in my handbag! But it also gave me a real sense of motivation and excitement. I was proud of myself for getting out there and proving to myself I could still do it.”
The thriving Los Angeles implant offers down-to-earth insights into her high-heeled life through the fashion, beauty and wellness advice she shares by way of her blog and debut book, Front Roe. She’s covered awards seasons for a decade, and has hosted NBC’s Fashion Star, Fox Asia’s Fit For Fashion and MTV’s makeover show Plain Jane – a project that placed her on set with British film producer Mackenzie Hunkin, whom she would marry in 2016.
“I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I wasn’t the girl who ran to coo over every baby, either,” says Louise, when asked if making babies was high on her agenda. “Once we started trying after we got married, I tried not to obsess over it – but I think once you get the idea into your head, you can’t help but start planning and daydreaming about it all.”
Ten months after tying the knot, Louise published a blog post, ‘Surprise – I’m pregnant!’, and, on recalling the day that she herself became privy to this knowledge, just an hour before dashing to the airport for a flight to France, remarks: “It was actually pretty comical, looking back.”
“I took my third pregnancy test of the month, and was very nonchalant because I just didn’t think I was. The only reason I took it was because I felt ill and wanted to take a flu pill, and wanted to be certain that was okay. I even forgot to go back into the bathroom to check the test! So when I saw it, I genuinely didn’t believe it. I made my husband rush out to buy more, and by the time he came back, my manager had popped over to give me something before the trip. She left, and we had about five minutes to find out for sure, react, and then get in the car to the airport! It was all very surreal.”
The months that followed weren’t exactly smooth sailing, with Louise suffering morning sickness in both her first and third trimesters. “Then towards the end I contracted bronchitis and ended up on a ventilator for a few hours – not fun! But for a lot of my pregnancy I did manage to exercise, and that kept me happy and upbeat. Plus my weekly small glass of red wine, which also kept me very happy!”
Honor Florence Crosby Hunkin arrived a week early, in just four hours. “I was at home, in bed, around 4am, and thought I was having Braxton Hicks because the contractions weren’t very intense. But they were frequent!” Louise tried to keep sleeping until, with an almighty pop, her waters broke. “Mackenzie hadn’t packed his hospital bag yet, so I was rolling my eyes at him and squirming around in the car,” she says, and, once they arrived at the hospital, “things moved extremely fast”.
“It was very quickly time to push, and my doctor hadn’t made it to the hospital yet. She was on a bike ride, so she actually cycled to the hospital, and ran in with the helmet mark on her head! Which made us all laugh, something I was not expecting to do at all whilst giving birth. Honor was born about 20 minutes after that and having her placed on my chest was as true to every cliché you hear: just the most heightened, emotional, poignant, miraculous moment in time where everything just stops.”
This was around the time that Louise’s epidural finally kicked in, and so she needed to be carried to the recovery room. “My parents were there, and I can remember asking my mom to make me an egg mayonnaise sandwich, my childhood favorite.” Soon after, their hospital room adorned with Christmas lights and jazz playing through a portable speaker (Mackenzie might have packed late, but he packed well), Louise documented a few first family moments that she would later share with her following in her birth story video.
“My followers are incredible,” she says, crediting this cohort (700k and counting on Instagram) for introducing her to The Wonder Weeks app, and also for emotional support. “One of the best moments from my followers was when I had to go on a business trip, leaving Honor, and I was on the verge of tears in the car. I shared how I was feeling and received the most warm and personal messages of encouragement that I shall never forget.”
Spreading herself across family and work is an ongoing challenge. “It’s something I’m struggling with at the moment and am actually asking a few friends, who run their own businesses and are moms, for advice on,” says Louise. “Looking too far ahead to all I’ve got to do can overwhelm me, so focusing week by week, and realizing that balance is always going to be fleeting, has helped. I also have faith in the idea that Honor will hopefully grow up to be proud of having a working mom.”
On the home front, Louise and Mackenzie are both very hands-on. “We don’t have particular set roles, we just jump in when the other has to work at an event or do a shoot or a trip. Having said that, I love to do bath and bed time while he puts on the music and cooks dinner downstairs.” When asked what supports they’ve put in place to help them pull off the working-parent juggle, Louise responds: “It’s definitely spinning plates!”
“We have an incredible nanny who is with us in the week, and because we work from home predominantly, we get to see Honor all the time, take her to her classes and not miss the doctors appointments. But it can be tough living across the world from your family, I often wish we had grandparents and cousins to call in, just around the corner.”
Closer to her birthplace of Surrey, England, Louise started her career in magazines, writing and editing for Elle UK, InStyle UK and Vogue.com. She’s continued to build her personal brand through her blog, where she encourages women to take care of themselves – no small feat, in the early days of motherhood.
“It is a bubble,” Louise says of those hazy first weeks, “one that goes much faster than you realize. The advice we were given is to just relish in that bubble, don’t have visitors if you don’t want to – we didn’t for 10 days – and who cares if your hair is greasy and you’re in PJs all day? My advice would be to prepare as much as you can, by getting everything you’ll need for the baby and for yourself in advance – meals cooked and frozen, finishing up work projects where possible, house cleaned, nursery set up. And then ask for help. My parents moved in from England for six weeks and they were amazing. But it could be asking a neighbor, boss or friend to do little things for you, it all makes a difference.”
Louise also shares generously about the bodily changes that come part and parcel with growing and birthing a small human. “I wrote about this in great depth, because the little squares on Instagram don’t always tell the full story,” she says. “I was pleasantly surprised at how little pressure I put on myself to get back in shape. I was so immensely proud of my body for doing something so mind-blowing, that the jiggles seemed insignificant in comparison.
“My focus was being healthy, and listening to my body. I breast-fed for six months and have never been so hungry and thirsty! I drank four liters of water a day and ate a lot of hearty food. When my doctor gave me the okay I started exercising again, very gently. I really believe in doing things gradually, and your body knows what it is doing, so you have to trust it.”
Ever the globetrotter, Louise has struggled with breast pumping on the fly (“I’ve ended up squatting on bathroom floors in airports”), while sleep training was another battle – one that she wished she’d started sooner. “I’ve heard from many friends there’s a moment around four to five months when it works really quickly and easily.”
Generally, though, she’s far more relaxed than she’d expected to be. “I definitely worry about her and am a protective mom, but I thought I’d be much worse,” Louise laughs. “I love watching Honor explore and see, hear, taste things for the first time. One thing I wasn’t expecting was how much a baby can make you belly laugh. She has a big sense of humor. At dinner time or bath time we usually both get the giggles, and there’s nothing better.”
Back on the red carpet, parenthood has given this celebrity confidante all the more to chat about. “When I was heavily pregnant I hosted the Emmy’s red carpet for NBC, and the celebrities were definitely extra charming! A lot of them asked when I was due, what I was having, or gave me advice. Parenthood humanizes and bonds people in a really lovely way. If you’re out with a stroller, people chat to you more. It’s the same in meetings, sharing experiences and funny anecdotes, and for working mothers there is an instant, mutual respect.”