Saturday 26 May 2018

Katie Piper: 'When I am with my daughter Belle (3), there's no phone or TV'

Campaigner and TV presenter Katie Piper talks working mother guilt, overcoming anxiety and living in the moment with Claire O'Mahony

Katie Piper
Katie Piper
Katie Piper attends the Pride Of Britain Awards at Grosvenor House, on October 30, 2017

Claire O'Mahony

On one level, Katie Piper is just like every other mother. She's constantly tired, she confesses to sometimes not having time to shower and on occasion she feels guilty about being a working mum.

Yet the 34-year-old TV presenter was not always certain that she would be able to experience those minor trials and tribulations of motherhood. An acid attack in 2008 left her permanently scarred and this was followed by hundreds of operations, with the medication she took to aid her recovery potentially affecting her fertility. But now, almost ten years later, she is mother to Belle (3), as well as Penelope who born in December of last year, with her husband Richard Sutton. As well as her TV work, she campaigns to raise awareness about burns victims, setting up The Katie Piper Foundation, which works towards creating a world where scars do not limit a person's social inclusion, function or sense of well-being.

She's also the author of a best-selling autobiography, Beautiful, and most recently she has partnered with Pampers for their latest campaign, #Thankyoumidwife, which celebrates that jobs that midwives do. The campaign's research found that while the majority of mothers agreed that it is important to thank midwives, just over half actually did, although nearly half of the mums questioned told Pampers that they would still like the opportunity to express their gratitude.

"The reason behind the campaign is that one in three midwives feel undervalued and underappreciated and I actually felt quite sad to hear that because they're essentially giving life and supporting a woman on what can be quite often a long and difficult emotional journey," Katie says. "In the last 10 years of my life I met lots of medical people, and midwives - and as well as having that medical and scientific qualification - also have to be emotionally in tune. They need to be passionate about their job. It's not just a job, it's a vocation and something that they live and breathe. And it kind of mkde me question - am I one of the women who made my midwife feel like that?"

She herself was under the care of a midwife for both her pregnancies and remembers her midwife coming back to see her after she'd had Belle. "I had a Caesarian and a consultant delivered my baby but as soon as I had my baby and she was cleaned up and we were put into the ward together, my midwife stopped by my bedside. She showed how to get my baby to latch on and how to breastfeed," she says. "At the time I thought my midwife was just chatting to me because she wanted to see what the baby looked like but I look back now and I realise that she'd probably finished her shift, she probably wasn't getting paid and she stayed on and helped me. I went on to breastfeed for five months after that and I could credit that woman for me being able to give my baby the start in life I wanted to."

Talking to all the different women in her life about their experiences, including her sister, revealed similar stories about midwives.

"For me it's something I'm really proud to get behind and it's a nice thing to be involved with," she explains. "My midwife has been a big part of my journey in giving not just medical advice but emotional support."

The mother-of-two says that what she loves about her life is that no two days are the same. But she struggles with spending time away from her children.

"When I talk to other mothers, whether you choose to become a stay at home mum or go back to work, all mums get guilt about quality time, and I think it's difficult. I love working, I enjoy working and when I start to get guilty I try and remember it is about the quality and not the quantity."

Even before they had children, Katie and her husband were an active couple, spending weekend at the gym and cycling.

Now, as well as their two daughters, they also have a sausage dog and the family likes physical pursuits, spending much more time outdoors than in.

"When I am with Belle, I like to be in the present moment with no phones, and we're not watching telly together - we try and do more traditional stuff like cooking and arts and crafts."

Katie believes in practising mindfulness to keep balance and perspective. This March, she's embarking on a new project with her debut live theatre show called 'What's in my head'. The show will see the TV presenter discuss her own battles with anxiety, as she explains how she's overcoming it and how to find the confident way forward.

"I used to worry about their [her children's] future and what would happen in years to come and that's something I'm working on, not to worry, essentially. Worry is a waste of time and we can't control certain things. I'm trying to concentrate on living in the present moment as much as I can and reminding myself of that."

Irish Independent

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