Jessica Ennis-Hill "Giving birth was harder than the Olympics"
The Olympic medalist on her favourite things about being mum to Reggie, two, as she prepares for her second baby this year.
Did you always want to be a mum?
Oh for sure. I wasn’t sure at what stage in my life it would happen, especially when I was competing, but from a young age I knew I wanted to be a mum.
Who’s your main parenting influence?
I’m really close to both my parents and I have a good, strong relationship with my mum. She had me when she was 20 so she’s still a young mum now. I get on really well with my sister too and I’m close to my dad. I’m a daddy’s girl. When I was pregnant with Reggie, my mum would say to me, ‘Tell me what we can do when the baby arrives’ and I thought, ‘Ah, it will be fine, I’ll cope, Mum.’ Then as soon as he was born I was like, ‘Argh, Mum, help!’ It’s nice that I can go to her with any little worries – you stress about everything when you have your first baby. It’s great to have friends with babies who I can talk it all over with too.
How do you find pregnancy?
I love being pregnant. With Reggie, I didn’t feel sick or unwell at all. I enjoyed seeing my bump grow.
Can you describe birth in one word?
What was your experience?
When the baby arrives, you forget it all… but I would say giving birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, even harder than the Olympics! Because I train so hard and have horrible physio, I was under the impression that I could deal with a lot of pain and that I have a high pain threshold. But labour pain is like nothing else.
The difference is, training is short bursts of pain and then you recover. With Reggie I was in labour for such a long time – 20 hours – and was in pain for the whole time. Awful. I’m so strong and muscular but maybe that didn’t help in labour. Because I’m so active though, I think it did help my recovery. I have a good fitness base so was back to feeling good pretty quickly.
Favourite thing about being a mum?
I love the baby stage – it’s adorable when they are so tiny and sleep on you and make those gorgeous little faces. But now Reggie’s a toddler, it’s so much fun. He says hilarious things and makes me laugh all the time. He’s so loving too – he’s always saying ‘I love you very much Mummy’. It breaks my heart!
What’s the best advice you’ve had?
To be patient. I’m quite an impatient person so I’ve learnt this as I’ve moved through the stages. Everything takes longer than you imagine.
And your parenting style?
I like to think I’m fun and that we have lots of fun together.
What’s your perfect family day?
I now absolutely love Sundays. I used to train every Sunday, so it’s such a luxury to have that time now for a lazy morning. We have brunch, see friends and family, just hang out. That’s a novelty for me.
Who would be your fantasy babysitter?
It would have be Will Smith. He’d make Reggie laugh But I’d probably want to stay in with them.
What’s Reggie’s favourite thing to do?
Read. He’s got loads of books and we read together a lot. He’ll go to bed with four or five books around him.
What’s the one attribute you’d like to pass on to him?
Probably my focus and drive. Once I get something in my head and want to achieve it, I work really hard to get there. I hope he has that quality, I’ll try to teach him that.
What does your husband Andy do better than you?
He’ll launch me into change. For example, I was reluctant to get rid of the baby monitor but then I went away competing for a couple of days, came back and it was gone. And he was right, we didn’t need it. He forces change at the right time when I’m being hesitant. Reggie was in a cot bed and Andy said he needed a bigger bed – I was um-ing and ah-ing but we got one and now he loves it.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I’m not guilty about this one – I do yoga once a week with my sister. She’s got a little one too so it’s our time out. It’s good because you get a workout but you also get a nice bit of meditation at the end. I rarely get to switch off so it’s lovely.
What have you given up?
Competing! I did find it really hard when I had to be away from him. When he was 13 months, I went away for two weeks and I felt so sad and upset leaving him. When I got to China though, I just thought, ‘I’m here now, I’ve just got to work really hard, train hard and compete well, so that the time away from him is justified and not a wasted opportunity.’ Now, not having to train all the time, I have more free time with the family that I didn’t have before.
If you could invent a crazy new gadget for new mums, what would it be?
A sleep robot that gets your baby to sleep for ten hours straight.
What’s your one top parenting tip to pass on to new mums?
Try not to worry about every little thing – that’s my biggest tip. Though I know it’s so hard to do when you have a baby.