TV presenter Natalie Pinkham introduced her newborn baby girl Willow Mirela to HELLO! in August 2016 in an exclusive interview. She invited us into the West London home she shares with husband Owain Walbyoff and then-18-month-old son Wilf for a beautiful photoshoot, saying of her daughter: "She's a little miracle and her coming into our lives has made our family complete." Natalie also revealed how losing Willow's twin in pregnancy and suffering a string of medical complications after her birth has made her change her mind about having any more children.
Introducing eight-week-old Willow, who was born at West Middlesex Hospital on June 20, weighing 7lbs 14oz, Natalie said: "When my husband Owain, Wilf, Willow and I bundle into bed of a morning, it is the best part of my day. The whole world could be falling apart outside but we are in a little bubble." But Natalie's pregnancy news was tinged with sadness after Willow's twin sister died in the early months of pregnancy.
Natalie welcomed little Willow in June 2016
"To see two babies on the screen, then one… I found that image quite upsetting," said Natalie. "It's weird how you bury it and just get on, you don't have time when you have a little one to look after. But you have to stop, acknowledge and process it, otherwise it just lingers like demons hanging over you. I struggled with it for months. I don't think it affects me now, although it hits you now and then. But I just wanted Willow to be safe and healthy. One day I will tell her and explain it could happen to her daughter if she gets pregnant."
Natalie had a traumatic pregnancy with her son Wilf and a week before she was due to be booked in for a Caesarean for Willow, she was faced with that prospect once again. She developed a high temperature, so doctors – fearing she may have developed the potentially deadly sepsis virus, which could be passed on to her baby – admitted her to hospital. "I was monitored and her heart rate went up to 220 then dropped to 50 in the space of 50 seconds. The alarms went off and I thought, 'Oh God, here we go again – that's what happened with Wilf.' They had to get my temperature down before I had a C-section because of risk of further infection. They gave me antibiotics and monitored her. The next day I gave birth."
The couple also have a son Wilf
Despite the initial drama, Willow's entrance into the world was a magical experience for Natalie and Owain. "The surgeon suggested a natural Caesarean, which we'd never heard of before but we were like, 'Go for it.' They give you anaesthetic, cut you open and the child 'delivers itself' as it simulates coming out of the birth canal. It's better for their lungs and everything. They dropped the screen and I watched her being born. Her little hand came out then her shoulder and she pushed herself out. The registrar extended her hand and Willow grabbed it. It was unbelievable."
Media executive Owain said: "I loved watching the birth; it was incredibly moving to see her pushing her way out. It felt amazing to meet her for the first time. I was blown away all over again. I feel very lucky to be a dad of two. I gather there's nothing quite like a father-daughter relationship; I can't wait for it to develop."
The couple pictured at Princess Eugenie's wedding in October 2018
However, the couple's euphoric joy hit a bump when Natalie's body started to react to the surgery. "The next day I felt amazing, then the day after I woke and everything had stopped working; my bladder, bowels, intestines. Basically, my body went into shock and I developed post-operative ileus [paralysis of the intestine], then post-birth pre-eclampsia again," said Natalie. "I was getting thinner but my belly was getting bigger. I looked nine months pregnant again. I couldn't eat, I was on a drip to keep hydrated and lost so much weight. I was in hospital for a week all wired up, which really upset Wilf. The thing that broke me was I couldn't pick him up for six weeks because I was in so much pain."
The F1 Sky Sports presenter is philosophical about her experience, but it has caused her and Owain to reconsider their dreams for a bigger family. "I don't ever want to moan – I love being pregnant and I know I'm no different to thousands of women out there. We always thought we'd have three or four kids as we both have large families and loads of cousins. But the first time things went wrong with Wilf I thought, 'That's weird.' The second time, 'Okay, there's a pattern here.' The third, you're asking for trouble, aren't you? I feel lucky to have two children, a boy and a girl. I would be pushing that luck if I went for a third."
Willow's name was chosen after they asked their families to vote by text between that and Saskia and it won nine votes to four. "I really loved 'Willow' because it is a gentle but strong name," said Natalie. "I always think of the tree that weathers the storm but bends." Her middle name Mirela is a tribute to the Romanian orphan Natalie met in 2000, when she volunteered in an orphanage during a summer break from university. She inspired Natalie's campaign to end the institutionalisation of orphans, but died in 2014, shortly after moving into a home built for her, thanks to a documentary made by Natalie.
"We were always sure that our daughter's middle name would be Mirela," said the TV star. "I wanted Mirela's legacy to live on and I wanted Willow and Wilf to grow up knowing the concept of how lucky they are. It's luck where you're born and unfortunately it can determine what your future holds."
The original interview came out in August 2016
Now they're all safely home, what dreams and aspirations do they have for Willow? "You feel differently with a little girl. A mother-son relationship is incredibly special but a mother-daughter is just different. My mother and I are the best of friends. In 37 years, we have never had a cross word. I just hope I can emulate the relationship I have with my mum with Willow but…" Natalie pauses and laughs: "If she's like her father, we have no chance."