There are any number of places you might recognise comedian Ellie Taylor from. Whether it’s her role as host of The Great Pottery Throwdown, as Flo Collins in Ted Lasso, from her days on BBC Three’s iconic Snog, Marry, Avoid, or from one of her five incredibly funny stand up tours, she’s an icon herself. In 2021, following the birth of her daughter, she published her debut book My Child and Other Mistakes, which fast became a Sunday Times bestseller. Ellie joined Gi to talk about c-sections, women’s pain, expectations vs reality, returning to work post baby and writing her book.
For Ellie, kids weren’t always on the cards. Despite writing in her diary that she’d be married with kids by the age of 25, the reality was quite different. In fact, she did everything ‘reasonably late’ and ‘definitely’ wasn’t married with children at 25. Ellie got married in her early 30s and had her first baby when she was 35.
“I can’t imagine having died never being a mother.”
She explains: “I suppose I thought, when I was younger, I would have children, because that’s just what you do. But then as I got older, I thought, ‘Oh, you don’t actually have to.’ Then I definitely thought about it. When it became more of a choice as opposed to just something that was definitely going to happen, then it was a little bit more complicated. I was never someone who particularly likes children, certainly not babies. So I never had that call. I was 34 when I fell pregnant, but I made a very practical decision… In very bleak terms, I thought, ‘I can’t imagine having died never being a mother.’ So that’s why I had a kid.”
For Ellie the decision was really cemented by the idea that in 20 years she wanted a house with people in it. She looked at how she got from A to B and realised that ‘Oh, there’s the annoying having a baby bit in the middle’.”
She adds: “There’s definitely some women who are absolutely born to be mums and they know they want to do that. But I think there’s also more women who are a bit more on the fence. And it’s a definite decision. It’s an intellectual choice. And I think going into it when you’re not maternal is a little bit scary, because you think, ‘How on Earth is this going to turn out?'”
“She was lifted into joy.”
Ellie’s daughter was born via a planned c-section. She recalls: “The birth itself was lovely. I always say, ‘She was lifted into joy.’ Honestly, it was just the most beautiful experience. And I’m so glad that I had it that way.”
Recovery, however, was another kettle of fish. Ellie describes finding it “really tricky” and said her pain was “agony”.
“I think what really got me is the fact that I was discharged with no extra pain relief, just paracetamol and ibuprofen, which I thought was normal. Because why would I know any different? And the doctor was like, ‘Yes, we try not to prescribe anything stronger when women leave, because it can cross into the breast milk.'”
She added: “And it just really annoyed me that this male doctor had chucked me out [after] major abdominal surgery. And then I think we say that phrase, ‘major abdominal surgery,’ but major abdominals have been cut open. All bits and bobs have been flipped open. There’s all this internal healing. You’re sliced in the middle, a fundamental bit of you.”
“When you laugh, when you breathe, when you cough, when you stand, anything you do, that movement really flipping hurt. And just sort of dismissed as, ‘Yes, well, the baby is the only important thing now.’ Anything that could vaguely go near the baby, the mother is just chucked under the bus, which I think is such bullshit because there are two people involved in childbirth.”
“I think I liked mine for a while before I loved her.”
Once Ellie had her baby, it unlocked a realisation about what a struggle having kids and a family can be. She also realised the struggle that comes with the early days does pass. She told Gi: “I do a chapter on the newborn life, and I say all the horrible feelings and the physical pain, the mental pain, everything passed. Everything. And at the time, I couldn’t see that it ever would. And I think it’s tricky, isn’t it? With pregnant women, there’s the argument for ‘Don’t scare them,’ which I absolutely understand.”
But for Ellie, it’s about balancing fear with reality. She explains: “I’m like, well, don’t scare them. But also let them know that it might be really shit and they might hate the experience. Doesn’t mean they don’t love the baby. You can love your baby. Like your baby, perhaps, at the beginning. I think I liked mine for a while before I loved her.”
“You can look after a baby competently, but also fucking hate the experience and think you’ve ruined your life. That’s okay. You’re not a bad mum. It doesn’t reflect on you badly as a parent. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child.”
To hear Ellie Taylor and Gi’s chat about all things parenting in full, head to wherever you usually find your podcasts. You’ll find the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify or check out the YouTube video below. Listen to all other episodes of Happy Mum Happy Baby here.