Known for her positive social media brand, presenter and DJ Ashley James is candid about how life has changed since welcoming her son Alfie after finding love with partner Tommy.
The 35-year-old star sat down with HELLO! to chat baby bump etiquette in the Rihanna era, parental resentment and body confidence. The star is passionate about new mums feeling empowered and she is working with Tu to highlight the importance of feeling confident throughout pregnancy and beyond.
WATCH: Celebrity baby bumps looking fabulous
What are your views on bump etiquette?
It's something I feel quite strongly about. The term baby weight is just horrible terminology - your body is doing this amazing thing and yet women are still boiled down to their appearance.
I was speaking to Olivia Buckland [Love Island star] about this because she's about to have a baby and she's been getting lots of unsolicited comments. Our bodies all deserve praise and support. A lot of people do struggle with the way their body changes. For me, it wasn't necessarily if I gained or lost weight, it was trying to find clothing that I felt comfortable, and dare I say, even sexy in! You want to still feel and look good.
Ashley was keen to still feel sexy during pregnancy
Did you get comments about your baby bump?
I had really bad pelvic girdle pain which meant that towards the end of my pregnancy I could barely even walk. I ended up having a really big baby, so my bump was big.
I was pregnant at the same time as my sister which was obviously an amazing thing, but it meant that we had a lot of comparison and we've got different body shapes. Before having a child, people wouldn't openly discuss our shapes to our faces whereas when we were both pregnant people did often discuss how we both looked and how it compared. I found it quite frustrating. People forget that it is still your body.
I think people compliment you more if you look like you're not having a baby and particularly after if you look like you haven't had a baby. I always say your physical appearance doesn't equate to your health and it certainly doesn't equate to the health of your baby.
Ashley has a son called Alfie
How did you cope with body changes when you were pregnant?
I couldn't keep track of my boobs and how much they were going to grow, and clothing gives you a lot of confidence. It wasn't so much that I didn't like my body it almost felt like I was in a stranger's body. I spent my twenties and early thirties getting to know my body and finding my style and then my body shape totally changed. It's almost like starting again.
There's a phrase that I love called 'matrescence' which is from when you become a mother, it's that idea like you're an adolescent again, leaning how to be a mum and learning how to feel confident again, how to embrace your body. I took a lot of comfort in it - they say that you have to lose your old identity and form a new one.
Ashley had to find her identity again after becoming a mother
So do you think expectant mums still struggle with maternity wear?
I think there are lots of amazing options available and I would love to be pregnant now in Rihanna era. I think she's doing so much for women not feeling like you have to cover up and hide. I hope that she shows the postnatal side of things as well. She's been a great advocate. As much as social media can be negative, it's also such a positive thing especially with pregnancy and motherhood - there is so much honesty on there.
What more could be done to encourage body positivity for women, especially pregnant women?
In terms of body confidence, a lot of it comes down to what people's understanding about motherhood and recovery. It's an amazing thing that women go through, and I don't think people realise how severe the recovery is. If you're looking at lots of A-listers, they've probably enlisted post-natal teams. We need to get out of the idea that losing weight equates to health. Even the announcement of a birth is quite glossy - 'mother and baby doing well' - but the mother probably won't be doing well as she'll be bleeding for the next six weeks. People don't really talk about that.
What would your advice be for expectant mums?
In terms of your body, remembering that it takes nine months to grow a baby so why are we expected to "bounce back" so quickly. I hate even using that term because what does it even mean? It took my body around 12 months for even my bones to go back into place. So even if I would have dieted or did loads of exercise, I still wouldn't have been able to fit it my clothes as my bones needed to come back into place.
Also, remember that confidence isn't from being your smallest self. Around 2013, I was the smallest I've ever been but definitely the most unconfident, insecure person I've ever been. Finally, putting all of your old clothes in storage is important. Nothing will make you feel worse than waking up every single day and staring at clothes that don't fit you. I wore Tu throughout pregnancy and beyond as Sainsbury's is a two-minute walk from my house.
Ashley believes parenthood still isn't equal between men and women
How do you and your partner Tommy juggle parenthood?
I lot of communication. In the beginning a lot of resentment and arguments. I've decided that I would definitely enjoy parenthood more as a dad because Tommy could do the bare minimum and get so much praise. I did find it really hard because his life went back to normal much quicker than mine. For him, having Alf on a work call would give him street credit whereas for women it is seen as unprofessional.
If I have a work event people might ask "Oh who's looking after the baby?" And I'm like "His dad" and people say: "That's so nice" and I'm like "Is it?" Pretty sure when he's at work nobody is asking him that! I think for a lot of couples you feel very equal but then you step into the parenting realm, and we haven't quite caught up.
You've spoken openly about being non-maternal before having Alfie - how did people react to that?
I feel like when you're quite open about things there are quite a lot of people who perhaps feel the same way but are scared to say it. Some people feel that for as long as they can remember they wanted to be a mum but that was never a feeling I had. I know lots of women feel like this. It's getting a lot more fun now, but I found it really boring if I'm honest, a lot of the baby stuff.
Ashley is working with Tu to encourage women and mums to feel confident during their pregnancy journey, from bump to baby and beyond. Tu Womenswear, Baby wear and Maternity wear is available online at Tu.co.uk or selected Sainsbury’s stores.
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