Hollyoaks star Jennifer Metcalfe today reveals how she feels lucky to be a mother after her son’s traumatic birth.
The stunning star, 35, has opened her heart about her turbulent first year of motherhood with baby Daye.
And how her struggles with breastfeeding and online trolling about her post-baby body added to her woes.
As the star returns to the Channel 4 soap as Mercedes McQueen, she is speaking out to show other mums that the ideal picture of being a mother is not always realistic.
Her son was born in June last year and called a “miracle” by midwives because he had a knot in his umbilical cord which was also around his neck.
Jennifer said: “They say it happens to 1 in 100 babies in the womb and that they usually die. But Daye fought the odds and he is here.
“I am lucky to be a mum because Daye could have died in the womb or at birth.
“You don’t really realise how precarious the labour can be and what can go wrong, so I thank my blessing that he is here and has just turned one.”
Jennifer, a one-time Dancing on Ice star, sparked worries among fans when she appeared at this month’s British Soap Awards looking gaunt and frail.
But she insisted that while she the slimmest she has been since giving her birth she is not ashamed of how she looks.
Jennifer, who has dropped from a size 10 to a size 6 in the past 12 months, said: “I am probably the smallest I have ever been but I don’t care what anyone else thinks and if they feel I’ve gone too far with my weight loss or that I look unusually skinny.
“I vary from a size zero to a size ten, which I haven’t been for years. I wouldn’t say I am a standard size but I never have been. I don’t know what I weigh right now.
“I don’t have time to keep getting on the scales because I’m too busy carrying a 2st man around.
“He hangs off me and that’s what keeps me trim.
“Daye is a very active baby, who is always on the move, but he had very bad colic for the first few months so I was totally preoccupied with that rather than what my body looked like.”
A month after giving birth to Daye, whose dad is ex-Geordie Shore star Greg Lake, Jennifer posed in her bra and knickers for a selfie to show her post-baby body.
She posted the picture on Instagram but it was a decision that led to massive backlash. She admitted: “Social media is tough and I had online trolling over the fact that I was wearing my scabbiest bra and knickers. I felt I looked pretty awful but I was so happy because I had not long had a baby. I didn’t really pose to make an impression but it felt right to do it.
“If it helps one woman to feel more confident about her post-partum body then I am more than happy with that.
“But a few people said: ‘Your picture makes other women feel like rubbish when they have had a baby.’
“I was like OMG, I am not saying I look good or bad but more about how a woman can create a baby and not bother about how she looks afterwards.
“I have to say I don’t like my body any more now than I did back then. It was healthy then and it’s healthy now.”
While Jennifer has embraced motherhood she never believed it would be as challenging, particularly breastfeeding .
And, with news last week, that midwives have been ordered not to judge new mothers who choose not to breastfeed, this resonates with the actress.
She said: “I did breastfeed Daye for about a month and my boobs are not quite the same.
“I found it really difficult and I managed it for a month because it gives your baby a good start but I can see how it’s not for everyone and mums shouldn’t be made to feel guilty if they can’t.
“I found it agony and I know some mums find it really natural but Daye was more settled on the bottle and I don’t think I was getting enough milk.” Motherhood also took its toll on Jennifer because Daye had colic, which causes tummy pains, and reflux, where acid from the stomach leaks up into the oesophagus.
She said: “The early days is just a killer. Daye had colic and really bad reflux. It was hell on earth for about eight weeks and nothing I did ever helped.
“He’d scream all day. There wasn’t even 10 minutes when he wasn’t crying.
“I was exhausted from the lack of sleep. One time me and Greg tried to have a meal in a restaurant but we had to give up because Daye was screaming. You try and have a normal life. The more you try to, the more difficult it gets.
“I learned that you may as well stay at home because if they are happy then you are happy. Luckily Greg is really hands on and doesn’t have problems doing night feeds so our relationship hasn’t suffered too much.”
In an unconventional move, the pair – who have been together for nearly six years – are currently living separately.
Greg is in Newcastle, where he runs his gas engineering business and Jennifer in Liverpool.
She could not wait to return to Hollyoaks and film her first scenes in Majorca. She revealed: “Greg is going to stay in Newcastle and me and Daye are in Liverpool but he is going to try and come and visit on long weekends.
“I’ve been on maternity leave in Newcastle for a year living in Greg’s flat but his job is very successful in Newcastle and my job is in Liverpool.
“But all three of us are ready for a change in routine now.
“Daye is settling into nursery and I have got to be excited. If I had gone back a few months ago, I think I’d have struggled but now he is on the go, I can’t entertain him all day.
“I feel like ‘what else can I do with you’ and I am almost excited that it has come to this point.”
- Jennifer Metcalfe is an ambassador for LighterLife Fast, exclusively available at Superdrug and Superdrug.com. See lighterlifefast.com