Glamorous BBC journalist, Kate Silverton, thought that she might have to give up her dreams of becoming a mother, but with her baby due early in November, she is over the moon about it. We grabbed her for a heart to heart about pregnancy, birth and beyond.
I have to admit that the news that I am writing an article about Kate Silverton caused something of a stir in my family – with both my dad and my brother suddenly, and mysteriously, taking a far greater than usual interest in my work. But Kate is much more than just the thinking man’s breakfast time heartthrob – she’s a highly regarded journalist who has reported from war zones.
When Kate met her now husband, Mike Heron, she hoped to add the role of mum to her already impressive CV, but after two difficult years of trying for a baby, and four unsuccessful IVF attempts, the couple were beginning to accept that it might not happen.
“We decided to stop having any more treatments, and instead to look to the future and focus on what we did have, rather than what we didn’t. We spent time planning our wedding, and we bought our first house together. We also started planning for a future that was childless, but had lots of possibilities – lots of travel and adventure, and it was only then that, perhaps, I let go a bit of the stress that I had been carrying, and realised that we would be happy whatever happened.”
Kate is certainly not the first woman that I’ve come across to have abandoned
IVF and then become pregnant naturally. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it happens more often than you might imagine. It’s impossible to say exactly why, but Kate does have some theories about the things that helped her.
“I think that, no matter how much I put a brave face on things, perhaps I was more upset about it all than I admitted – even to myself. It was only when I totally gave up on the idea of having children, and focused instead on other things, that my body was able to relax into it.”
Kate also tried some alternative therapies around this time, and believes that they made a difference. “I had acupuncture with a chap called Gerard Kite, on Harley Street. He didn’t just use acupuncture, but talking therapies, too. I was really surprised when he sat me down in his surgery, and, instead of getting out the needles straight away, he started to ask me about my life, my work patterns, and my fears and thoughts surrounding having children.”
At 29, Kate had received emergency treatment for a life-threatening twisted cyst on her ovary, and, at the time, had been told that this would reduce her chances of conceiving later. During her conversation with the acupuncturist, Kate gained some insight into the impact that this may have had on her state of mind when she was trying to have a baby. “It emerged that I harboured a fear that I wouldn’t get pregnant – perhaps a defence mechanism that I’d built up in response to being told that I would find it hard to have children. I wonder if, in some small way, I had suppressed the trauma of almost dying – but had remembered the doctor’s words, and maybe they played some role in me assuming that pregnancy would never happen to me.”
At the same time, Kate and Mike decided to get a puppy. “I truly believe that also helped,” says Kate. “I was nesting with puppy paraphernalia, and looking forward to having a ‘furry child’. I joke that my mind and body then came together as if to say ‘ah, she really is serious about having a baby, then!’”
“Up to that point, I had been travelling a lot with work – reporting from the front line in Afghanistan, and so on, and it was as though this commitment to a puppy – to being around to look after it, and to put something outside of work first – actually confirmed to my body that I was ready to commit. Totally unscientific, but I do believe that it might have helped!”
Having faced the possibility that they may not be able to have biological children, Kate and Mike also began to consider the idea of adoption. “I started to talk to couples who had adopted children, and I realised that there was always going to be a silver lining – whatever happened. Again, this allowed me to think ‘what will be will be’ and perhaps gave me the space to conceive, without any of the previous pressures.”
Maybe it’s because of everything she went through getting here, but Kate is now the very picture of glowing impending motherhood. “I am beyond excited, and beyond happy right now. I realise how lucky I am to have fallen pregnant – and I cannot wait to meet my baby in a few weeks.”
“In terms of the pregnancy, I’m having a wonderful time. I’ve loved feeling the movements of the baby. Mike has started to talk to it when he comes home from work – last night he was singing to my stomach when a foot kicked him straight in the mouth – moments like that are simply beyond description, and we feel incredibly blessed to be in this situation at all.”
Aware of how precious this experience is, Kate has taken good care of herself during the pregnancy. “I’ve sought the advice and guidance of some fantastic people along the way – from hypnotherapists like Maggie Howell, for the birthing process, to my midwives, and pregnancy gurus like Dr Gowri Motha. They have all given me confidence in being able to have a healthy pregnancy and labour at 41.”
“I’ve just got back from a pregnancy retreat with Dr Motha at Lifehouse in Frinton, where I had lots of massages, reflexology and creative healing which, given that I’m finding things a lot slower as I become heavier and more tired, has been very welcome indeed!”
Of course, Kate has a demanding job – and she has carried on working almost to the end of her pregnancy. “As any journalist will tell you, news is addictive – I love being in the newsroom, and feel totally fulfilled by my job. I did find it hard getting up to present ‘Breakfast’, though. Being on the sofa for 6am means a 3am start, and, although I laugh and say it’s good training for the sleep deprivation that will surely soon follow, I did find it difficult, in the latter months, to get up and out, and then concentrate on a four hour news programme.”
Fortunately Kate has had plenty of support from fellow presenters. “Friends and colleagues at work have been superb. Sophie Raworth lent me some of her old maternity clothes and Fiona Bruce, Susannah [Reid] and Sian [Williams] are all coming over for a mini baby shower in a few weeks – it seems so novel when they have relatively grown up children and here I am, only just starting out!”
With a career as impressive as Kate’s, it’s hard to imagine that she won’t, at some point, want to go back to work. As a freelancer she won’t be entitled to ordinary maternity leave – but she’s determined to prioritise parenting, for now. “I adore my job and everything about it, but it’s also been very liberating to have a completely different take on life and to be exploring the role I’ll play as a parent. I’m going to take as much time out as I can. I’ll explore different avenues in order for me to work perhaps one day a week – but certainly not for the next five or six months. I love writing and broadcasting on radio, too, so I’ll keep my hand in where I can, but, knowing how quickly the baby stage goes, I aim to focus as much on my little one as I possibly can. I’ve waited too long not to!”
As well as being keen to savour her much-anticipated motherhood, Kate is acutely aware that there are other people still struggling to conceive. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of cards, knitted blankets and baby bonnets that we’ve received, and the general goodwill that pregnancy seems to instil in people. I’ve also been privileged and, equally, saddened to receive some very personal emails and letters from couples who are in the same position that we were in not so long ago – desperately trying anything to conceive, and each time facing the terrible, gut-wrenching, realisation that another treatment had failed. It is truly a horrid situation for anyone to be in, and I try to respond to every email and letter – to at least give some sense of hope, in that, if I can fall pregnant, after being given a less than three per cent chance of doing so, then someone else can too.”
“I haven’t planned much beyond November in terms of what comes next – we’ll enjoy our first Christmas in our new home with the new baby, and celebrate our first wedding anniversary – and I will thank our lucky stars for what we have.”