It takes a very brave woman to expose her still flabby post-baby tummy to the nation. “Or a mad one,” laughs Jaquie Brown. “Sometimes I think, ‘Did I really do that?’” Yes she did, on Keep Calm and Carry On, her new TV show about raising a baby. The series includes a video diary Jaquie recorded about her own experiences as a new mum to her son Leo, and in one segment she courageously pulled up her top to show off her stomach just a few weeks after giving birth.
“When my mum watched that tummy shot I was watching her face – it was a sight! Afterwards, she said, ‘I’ve never ever seen anything quite like that on TV before,’” says TV personality Jaquie about the scene, which screened last week. “But I’m glad I did it. I’m not ashamed of my body. It was really important for my video diaries to be as honest as possible, and I wanted to show a real post-baby body.”
And that’s not all she has revealed to the camera. Jaquie (36) has shared her feelings about having just gone through childbirth and being responsible for a tiny little human being. Although she does talk about how besotted she is with precious little Leo (18 months), it has also been a chance to vent her frustrations over everything from sleepless nights to finding it hard to lose weight. She even sheds tears in front of the camera, which was set up in the spare room of her house for six months.
While she had fantastic support, both practical and emotional, from her husband, Guy, it helped to be able to rant to the camera. “It felt like a friend. It was good to off-load, especially in those early days when it was all a bit unsettling. I would be in there saying, ‘I’ve got no idea what I’m doing.’ I’d be feeling so overwhelmed by it all – the good stuff as well as the not so good – and it was important to be honest about it.
“I thought, ‘If I’m going to put this on TV, I’m going to make it as real as possible.’ I’m usually very private but I couldn’t do a programme about a subject like this without being open about what I was going through.”
All the home-video excerpts featured on Keep Calm and Carry On were unscripted and original – Jaquie never reshot or reviewed anything. She just handed it over to producer Jane Andrews, who chose segments she thought were suitable. “When I did finally see what was going in, there were some times when I went, ‘Oh my goodness.’ But I wanted it to be as genuine as possible, and it is.”
Jaquie had already written a book, I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant!, which included diary entries about her experiences while she was expecting, and was brutally honest about subjects not usually discussed in polite company – or often any company at all.
“We all go through these things but often we don’t talk about them,” says Jaquie, whose TV show The Jaquie Brown Diaries was a huge hit. That’s why Keep Calm and Carry On tackles topics such as sex after childbirth, often with Jaquie’s trademark irreverent humour. “I’d love it if it did prompt people to talk about these things.”
Jaquie learned a huge amount while interviewing experts on a variety of topics, but was conflicted by the fact that working on the show meant being away from Leo, who was four months old when filming began. “I loved doing it but it was so hard leaving him. You just have to find a balance.”
As well as learning a lot about being a parent, she also found out much about herself. “I’ve learned about my strengths, my patience, my resourcefulness – I can make a meal out of all sorts of things that are left in the back of the fridge and if I turn them into a face, Leo will eat them.”
While much of motherhood is what she was expecting, Jaquie says she was not prepared for how much it tests your tolerance. “Yes it is hard, really hard, but the good thing is knowing you are not the only one feeling this way, and also you get so much back from your child. It’s lovely. Leo is so affectionate – there is nothing better than his kisses and cuddles.”
Another thing she underestimated was how overwhelming her love for her son would be. “The emotions you have – wow. I feel full in my heart like never before. It’s so good. I also feel drained like never before, but that’s motherhood for you!”
Keep Calm and Carry On screens on TV One, Wednesdays, 8pm
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