My Journey Into Motherhood: Louise Roe

Following an 11-year stint living in LA, fashion journalist and TV presenter Louise Roe recently moved back to Oxfordshire with her husband Mackenzie and two-year-old daughter Honor. From coping with extreme morning sickness, to carving out her own maternity leave, she tells us what being a mother has taught her…

I had morning sickness all day and night for the first and third trimester, which was pretty tough. I was living in LA at the time, and filming at the crack of dawn for the NBC morning show over there, which was really challenging – I lived for my afternoon naps! I remember feeling so tired, I couldn't even face driving a car. It's amazing how your body just tells you what it needs, so I tried to listen and rest when possible.

I kept my pregnancy a secret for as long as I could. At the time, I was shooting pictures most days with various brands, and holding my jeans together with an elastic hairband! Thankfully, during the second trimester I felt pretty normal and energetic, so I carried on with gentle exercise – Pilates was fantastic, and I managed to do it right up until the day before I gave birth, which I'm sure helped with labour.

I had a very quick labour – which was extremely lucky considering Honor was my first baby. It was about four hours from my first contraction until she arrived and, thankfully, where we lived in LA we were only five minutes from the hospital. When I woke up with contractions around 4am, I thought they were Braxton Hicks, so I tried my best to ignore them until my waters broke rather dramatically in bed. At this point, my husband helpfully mentioned he hadn't packed his own bag yet, and asked me what I thought he should wear. Looking back, that moment makes me laugh a lot. I even tried to make some toast, because everyone says you can’t eat once you get to hospital. But the contractions were so frequent, I had to abandon it and get in the car. After arriving at the hospital, I had my epidural and Honor was born quickly afterwards. I then stayed in for two nights, eating my own bodyweight in lasagne and cookies. 

My biggest tip for labour would be to take fairy lights into hospital with you. It sounds strange, but it makes for a far more tranquil alternative to the harsh hospital lights. It helped us all relax and sleep much better. 

During those early days with Honor, I just remember feeling so happy. Of course, you're exhausted, and not every moment is easy, but the overall feeling was one of complete calm, and the joy of having friends visit and send sweet messages... it was so uplifting. I breast-fed for six months, which was challenging and painful at first, but I got the hang of it and enjoyed it. We also had my parents staying and they were a huge help. 

I think the term ‘maternity leave’ is a little unrealistic these days – mainly because so many women run their own companies or freelance. We had banked a lot of online content in advance, so I could have as much of a break as possible, but the very nature of working in the digital world means people want to see what's going on – especially when you've just had a baby. Even so, I didn't post anything for a couple of days after having her because it felt like a precious time. I'm always amazed by women who upload videos and pictures as they're giving birth. I'm too superstitious for that.

My husband and I both work predominantly from home. As a result, I'm very grateful to have a lot of flexibility in the hours I do. But it has meant we've learned to put better boundaries in place, and to make a real divide between work and family time. Because what I do and where I go inevitably ends up on my social media, blog and as part of the campaigns we shoot, we work most weekends and plenty of evenings. I'm still learning to get the balance right, but I wouldn't swap it for an office job. I've been there, done that.

I’ve definitely changed since becoming a mother. I like to think I'm more patient, and of course, your priorities change completely. I still consider myself to be ambitious and hard-working, but nothing comes close to how important your family now is. It's like taking a deep breath and looking at life in a new way. This little adorable creature relies on you entirely and you just want to be able to give them anything they need.

Parenting has taught me to live in the moment as much as possible. What's significant to a toddler is often a tiny moment we might otherwise, as an adult, bypass. Like an insect on a flower – they could stand and look at it for ages, and they want you to do that with them, which is so precious. 

The hardest part about being a mother is that I often feel quite torn – and guilty. Whether that's about work, socialising, or keeping fit, it's very hard to get the right balance and it never feels like there are enough hours in the day. Mackenzie and I will often tag team, racing around like maniacs while Honor naps. And we also have help from her wonderful grandparents. My mum was actually doing some ironing for me yesterday, which I felt an equal mix of guilt and appreciation over. She's a godsend.

I had a very happy childhood, in the English countryside. I told my parents just the other day how grateful I was for that, and how I think those roots are what brought us back here after so many years in Los Angeles. I wanted Honor to have the countryside to run around in and family nearby, so we decided to come home. Of course, we miss our friends in LA – and the weather – but it was time for a new chapter. 

The more Honor learns to express herself, the closer I feel to her. In the bath last night she told me we were best friends forever which was pretty special. 

Now I’m a mother, I try to stay calm as much as possible. If I react to naughty behaviour, it seems to encourage her to do it more. I'm sure children understand a lot more than they let on. Ultimately, though, we laugh a lot as a family – my husband is very funny and it’s something Honor seems to have inherited! 

You can have all the foresight in the world, but each child is different. Once you become a parent, you just have to go for it and learn on the job. One size definitely doesn't fit all. I’m getting better at only focusing on the short term, whereas before I always liked to have a clear plan for the future. Now, especially with everything that is going on in the world, there's a sense of reassurance in only planning for the next few weeks. We are enjoying the little things like making cakes, playing in the garden, having picnics and helping Honor learn to ride her toddler bike.  

I want to teach my children to be tolerant, empathetic and brave – and to try and have a sense of humour, at all times. I have always thought books are a wonderful way to learn empathy, too: you're thrust into the life of an entirely different culture, country or period of history, and it widens your ability to understand. I also hope Honor is lucky enough to travel or even work abroad, in the same way her dad and I did.

Follow @LouiseRoe and @LouiseRoeHome

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