Kate Thornton, 37, is mum to 3-year-old Ben. In our exclusive chat with the TV presenter we talk pregnancy, motherhood, tips to keep her son happy and some new quick-fix family recipes.
How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
‘I was elated. I was over the moon and just delighted because Ben was very much planned and very much wanted. You feel like you’ve won the lottery of life when you get that little blue line and in fact I’ve still got the photo of the pregnancy test somewhere’.
Had you always wanted to be a mum?
‘No, I never had the overwhelming “I have to have children” feeling but I always knew that at one point I would like to have a family and I always trusted that when the time was right those feelings would make themselves known, that those urges would be much stronger and certainly that was the case.
‘From the relationships that I’d been in I always knew that they weren’t going to go the distance because I always knew I didn’t want to have a family with that person so when I did meet someone I wanted to have a family with those feelings really came to the fore and by then I really did want to be a mum, absolutely.’
What were your feelings after you did the test? Were you worried, apprehensive or did you embrace it?
‘I embraced it, of course you have all the anxieties of a first time pregnancy or any pregnancy, you go to the scan literally crossing everything so you get the results back that give you peace of mind to try and get some sleep at night even though sleeping becomes quite difficult the bigger you get, so I think I had no more anxieties than any other pregnant woman.
‘I was puking my guts up for the first 16 weeks but I always think that’s a sign of a healthy baby because it means they’re really making themselves known. And then my second trimester was brilliant, but the third trimester wasn’t great and I had a few complications. I knew that Ben was going to make an early entrance so it just became a battle to try and keep him in as long as possible, which meant a lot of time at the hospital, being monitored, steroid injections and in the end he popped out at 35 weeks. I say popped – it was a 12-day event that I will never forget. It wasn’t the easiest but he doesn’t remember any of that. But you know when people go “Oh, you forget” – you don’t forget that overnight trust me.’
What happened with your birth then?
‘I still don’t know, my mother never carried full-term, and I’ve been told I will never carry a child full-term. Ben was fine when he was born, I was told he was a really good weight, he was a little over 5lbs which in terms of premature babies was a very good weight. But he was poorly, he had severe reflux so that had been giving him some trouble. Once we got all of that diagnosed, for the first year of his life Ben didn’t have a single feed without being medicated in some way, and only with things like Gaviscon but in a reflux baby it’s quite a lot of work for a first-time mum because you literally leave the house with 9 changes of clothes and you will need them because they puke constantly – they’re poor little things, they can’t keep anything down.
‘So I’ve learnt a lot in that time but he’s so robust now, he’s bigger than any of the other kids in his nursery, you would never know he was a premature baby who had feeding problems. He’s doing good.’
Going back to your pregnancy, did you have any cravings?
‘Yeah, but that changed quite a lot. My cravings were really healthy to begin with, pineapple, melon, lots of fruit and vegetables and then I had this mad three weeks of just drinking loads of milk and eating loads of dairy. I checked my What To Expect When You’re Expecting book and that’s when the teeth buds were coming through and he needed as much calcium as possible which I thought was fascinating – he was always dictating to me what he needed from the womb and nothing’s changed I can tell you.
‘And then I had about a fortnight of having to eat nothing but sausage rolls form a certain bakery near where I live, it was just disgusting, it was my dirty secret, I would buy loads of them and just sit in the car and just shove them in. I couldn’t even wait to get home I just had to have sausage rolls and then that went as soon as it came.
‘Honestly you lose control of your senses, your wants, it’s bizarre, you are literally held hostage by your hormones and I’ve always been quite prone to extreme hormone changes and I found them rife in my pregnancy. When you’re hungry and you’re pregnant it’s not like you think “Oh, I’m hungry, I’d like to eat” it’s “I have to eat now”. I remember one night being stuck on the M25 and I was just so hungry and the traffic wasn’t moving and I was almost in tears, I’d ripped the car to pieces looking for any remnant of an old snack and I did something I never do I just went to a McDonald’s drive-thru, it’s so not the sort of food I would normally eat but I would have eaten anything.’
Did you exercise or worry about weight during your pregnancy? Do you remember how much you put on?
‘No idea what I put on because they don’t weigh you anymore which is a good thing because I think it just makes people a little obsessive about all of the wrong things. As far as I was concerned, I was about to have a baby and my body needed to do what it needed to do and I just gave in to my body in terms of it dictating its wants and needs.
‘I did exercise when I was pregnant purely because I think labour is one of the most physically demanding things you’ll ever put yourself through and I didn’t want to be not fit for that and thank god I did train because for 12 days I needed it. When I say I worked out, I did do a bit of a pregnancy workout while it was still comfortable and then I just walked. I just stayed active as much as I could but then towards the end I was in so much discomfort that really I had to spend a lot of time cooped up.
‘You’ve got to listen to your doctors, there’s far too much pressure for women to get back to their fantasy weight, your body has been through so much. It takes two years for your hips to go back to where they were before you had a baby so why do you think you can starve yourself to some kind of former shell of yourself? You’ve got to give it time.’
Did you know the sex of your baby?
‘No, I didn’t want to.’
How did you come up with the name Ben? Was there any meaning behind it?
‘It’s a good fun name that can’t be messed with. Both his dad and I knew a friend called Ben who was just lovely so that kind of really flavoured the name for us. It’s a name that I’ve always liked and we decided he was a Ben not a Benjamin or any other kind of play on it. He has no middle name purely because we just couldn’t agree on anything. There was a differing of opinion to what he should be called so in the end it was the one name that we both agreed on if it was going to be a boy and then when he came out he really suited it. Parenting is a two way street and you’ve got to be in agreement on all those big decisions and a name is a big decision.’
So what was it like when you came home? Did you have everything prepared?
‘Because he was early, no. I mean I had bought everything but we were still having wardrobes built when we brought him home. I wasn’t massively disorganised but I wasn’t kind of quite there either, but to be honest none of that really matters in the first few weeks. He travelled around with me in a Moses basket from room to room, he was on a two hour feeding plan so neither of us really slept much, well I certainly didn’t, he was so tiny we had to build his weight up so that meant feeding him little and often, which was every two hours so none of things really mattered.
‘As long as I had my airtex blanket and my muslin and my breast pump which is always a joy, I was ok. None of his clothes fitted him, even the premature baby clothes were too big but they really don’t need an awful lot in those first few weeks. It’s as they get older that the collection of stuff that comes with them swells. To the point you probably have to move house at some point.’
You mentioned not getting much sleep, what was it like while you were pregnant?
‘Oh yeah he was very active, as soon as you sit down they sit up. When I was quite heavily pregnant I had been asked to cover the Oscars which was great. I couldn’t fit into any of the dresses, so I had to wear a wedding dress and a pair of Ugg boots and I remember the night before the big day I counted that I had to go to the loo 14 times in the night and I was literally screaming at him by that point ‘take your feet off my bladder’. I was exhausted but that’s pregnancy, you can’t grow another human being inside you without them making their presence felt.’
And obviously after giving birth, you didn’t get much more sleep?
‘No, I’ve only just started to get my sleep back and he’s three.’
How did you fit in work versus being a mum?
‘I did what every other working mother does and I just muddled through as best you can really. I work a lot less, I insist on only working part time, he goes to school next year but I am in a very lucky position that I get to only work part time. So I don’t proclaim to have found the answer or to have struck gold in terms of getting it right because I just don’t, every scenario you can imagine, walking onto the studio floor covered in sick, because I haven’t had chance to mop it out of my hair before leaving the house or having to call in sick because he’s sick, but he comes first.
‘You should never be made to feel you should apologise for that certainly when you’re a single parent and you just have to do what is right for your child and that’s what I always try to do – what’s right for him comes first and then I try not to think about it too much.
Do you have any tips to keep Ben entertained?
‘Apart from the obvious, songs, we do a lot of singing. We play a lot of I-spy in the car. Now he’s at the age he is I’ve found some really good apps for the iPad and iPhone which are brilliant when we’re travelling, there are some great books you can get that are interactive. I don’t feel guilty about letting him have access to those kind of things because they’re really educational. He really enjoys them, it’s something that I can get involved in with him and it means I don’t have to carry 12 books on holiday with us so I’ve become quite savvy with the old apps.
‘I also lie about things, lies really work! I tell Ben sweetcorn is sweets, he thinks green beans are green chips, pomegranates are sweets and now he thinks anything from the fruit or veg world gives superheroes the power to fly – it’s whatever gets you through the day and night.
‘At the moment he has a dummy when he’s tired but that has to go so we’re going to leave them for the Spanish babies when we go away on holiday. A friend of mine got her children out of using dummies by telling them Father Christmas’ sledge had broken and he needed all of the children’s dummies to melt down the teets so he could mend his tyres.’
What was Ben’s first word?
‘Mummy’ – I think! God isn’t it terrible you forget. Another tip, write everything down because I swear to God I really struggle to remember important things like when he first started to crawl or walk – my mother is really good she’s written it all down for me.’
Would you like to have more kids in the future?
love to yeah, but who knows if and when that could ever happen. If it
doesn’t happen then I’m happy with Ben and I feel blessed to have had
one healthy happy child but yeah the idea of never having any more
children makes me feel quite sad.’
Tell us about the recipes you’ve created…
‘What you become really good at when you’re a mum is doing everything really quickly, you become the master of the quick fix so the days of leisurely putting a meal together, just forget it.
‘I had friends over this week, I put Ben to bed at half 7, they were ringing my doorbell at ten-to-eight and I still managed to get a meal on the table whilst talking to them. It’s exhausting but what you’ve got to do is simplify what you do and what you cook so the recipes that I’ve done with Blue Dragon are really quick good for having mates over, for a family meal and it’s just about trying to educate you to use what’s in your fridge in different ways.
‘When you’ve had children your brain literally stops working and it’s about trying to get back into food again and having time to be a bit more kind of inventive but not to the point of it taking over entire chunks of your day. When I first started to puree Ben’s food I was still up at midnight with the hand blender – I was a slave to Annabel Karmel.
‘One of Ben’s favourite first recipes that I put together for him was an aubergine bake – it was stuffed full of vegetables and garlic and tastes. I wasn’t ever afraid to add flavours to his food and introduce them to him as he got older so now he’s got a really good palette and he’s quite adventurous with certain kinds of food.
‘But what I think is really shortsighted especially when we’re in the grips of an obesity epidemic is the fact that we as parents aren’t taught how to be nutritionally sound with our kids. I had to educate myself online or by picking up recipe cards and Googling tons of messages to see what I should be giving to my child.
‘The two courses that I think the government should offer is to teach parents how to feed their children from day one, suggested recipes and fridge and cupboard must-haves. I mean, do a lot of parents even know that their kids shouldn’t have a lot of salt in their diets? The other thing is a first aid course, we’re sent home from hospital knowing how to breastfeed but I wouldn’t know how to do basic first aid procedures, those things are so important.’
What is your signature dish?
‘My aubergine bake – it’s really good for the kids. Now that Ben’s a little bit older I add more tomatoes and use it as a pasta sauce. It’s really delicious, or you can give it to adults with nachos and it’s so good for you – there’s six different kinds of vegetables in there, so it doesn’t feel like a guilty indulgence.
‘I love fish, at the moment I’m doing some good sea bass. With fish the trick is to keep it simple just a bit of lemon juice and garlic. I’m a bit addicted to a kind of poor mans lobster mash at the moment, a crayfish mash because lobster is so expensive and crayfish isn’t as is just as tasty so I make a good mash with crayfish tails and I mix it with a little bit of wasabi which gives it a nice kick so yeah loving that too. It works well with any fish dish, mackerel, cod, coley – really easy, mash potatoes, chuck in some fish ends, butter, lemon a bit of wasabi, it honestly only takes five minutes.
‘I steal a lot these things from restaurants, if I eat something I like I ask the chef how he did it and take it home and try to make some sort of version when I get in – why not? I do love food and when you’re a parent you kind of have to find ways to make staying in more fun so to me it’s food.’
Watch Kate in the kitchen as she cooks up a series of tasty family friendly recipes using Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce at bluedragon.com.
Where to next?
– See more celeb mums in our A-Z guide
– Who’s pregnanct or just given birth? Find out in our pregnant celebs gallery
– Find out what the celebs have called their children in our baby names gallery