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Rebecca Adlington exclusive: 'I'm nervous to have another baby but I'll let the universe decide'

The Olympian opens up about her home life with husband Andy and children Summer and Albie

In partnership with


Sophie Hamilton
Parenting Editor
May 31, 2023
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Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington is beaming when we meet in London for her exclusive HELLO! interview and Digital Cover photoshoot, in partnership with TENA.

The mum-of-two, who shares two-year-old son Albie with her husband Andy Parsons, and her daughter Summer, seven, with her ex-husband Harry Needs, has just made a huge decision.

Rebecca, 34, and Andy married in August 2021 at stunning Cheshire country estate, Scarlet Hall, but almost two years on, they still haven't had a proper honeymoon… until now that is.

Rebecca reveals: "At the end of this year we're going away for one whole week! We only booked it last night - and I've only booked flights, not even the rest of the trip - but I felt so guilty booking something without the kids, because I love going away with the kids.

"I've never left the kids for a week, so this is the first time. We never really had a honeymoon because Albie was only six months old." She adds: "But we do need our adult time. We're going to Vancouver in Canada and I'm so excited."

We're thrilled for Rebecca and Andy as the couple have been through a lot over the past year. In August 2022, Rebecca sadly miscarried and had to undergo emergency surgery, subsequently falling ill with sepsis.

In our interview below, the star mum opens up about recovering from her difficult year, her family life with Andy and their children, how they feel about trying for another baby, and her struggle with bladder weakness post-pregnancy…

Rebecca Adlington is our Digital Cover star, in partnership with TENA

Hello, Rebecca! We all know you from your incredible swimming achievements. How do you feel looking back on them?

"I genuinely feel that I struggle to remember because my life is so different now. Don't get me wrong, It doesn't even feel like me sometimes. My life is so far from it – now I get tired walking up a set of stairs! I'm like, oh my god, how did I manage to do that?

"Hindsight's a wonderful thing. It was so intense and high-pressured, and such a different environment to real life – and it was a long time ago. I've been retired for 11 years."

Do you swim much now?

"I really wish I did. I absolutely love swimming. Certain sports people that you speak to… they want to do something different [after retiring]. I'm lucky that I do a sport that I can bob in and do a few lengths. I used to go quite a bit, but we moved house in January and we're figuring out routine and sorting everything out.

"The leisure centre does swimming at 6.15am, so I'm going to go before I go into the office. I'm definitely going to get back into it."

Do your kids take after you with swimming?

"Albie's only two. He has no fear in the water. We've just been on holiday to Egypt and he swam in armbands for the first time. Normally it's been us holding him. Every time I went to hold him, he kept going, 'Mummy, self. Self, self', because he wanted to do it himself. So that was really cute. He loves the water. He's had lessons since he was five weeks old. Summer stopped during COVID, but he's never had that break.

"Summer is really good and she has lessons each week, but she has said to me a few times, 'Mummy I don't want to do swimming like you did', and I'm like, 'That's fine', as long as she can swim, that's all that matters."

Has Summer seen the videos of you winning at the Olympics?

"Yeah. I go round to different schools, do talks and show them my medals. Her school asked me to go in.

"Part of my assembly is I ask for volunteers, choose four kids and they hold the medals – she got in a huff with me, she said, 'Mummy you didn't choose me'. I was like, 'Summer, they are in the house with you, you've never once been interested or bothered.' She said, 'But still mummy'. You can't use that one on me!"

How is Summer with her brother Albie?

"Ah, honestly, she adores him. I was a bit conscious of the age gap when we had Albie because it's quite a big gap, five years. I thought, how are they going to be?

"There have been a couple of times where I've had to say, 'Summer, you're not his mum'. She tries to really mother him and she copies what we do as parents rather than just being a sister sometimes. She does understand when I say things like that, but she's absolutely brilliant with him. 

"Don't get me wrong… I do think in their teenage years when she's 17 and he's 12, she'll be like, 'Oh my god, go away from me', but for now it's super cute. He adores her. If we go and pick her up from school, he goes, 'Summer!' and runs up to her. She had Brownies last night and he said, 'Is Summer home soon?' He really misses her when she's not around. They just love each other."

rebecca adlington exclusive hello hoot
Rebecca strikes a pose at our exclusive HELLO! Shoot

Do you get much time on your own with Summer?

"I think that's the bonus of an age gap. Albie goes to bed a little bit before Summer and they have activities at different times, so we do spend time one on one - whether it's Andy or me with Summer. She came with me the other week to get my nails done; she wants to do slightly more grown-up things now."

You co-parent Summer with your former husband Harry – how does it work for you?

"It's constantly evolving. Summer was very, very young when we separated so she's never really known us together anyway. She's always been used to it, to daddy's house and mummy's house. Obviously, she had lockdown in the middle of that, so we did three days each. As much as we get on – it's fundamentally the right thing to have our own space.

"Everything's just had to evolve because now she's got older, she understands a lot more. Her dad doesn't live locally any more, so he's moved and it's one of those [things] where it just works. We communicate well. Summer looks forward to seeing her dad. She's going on holiday with him in the summer, which will be so good for her.

"The way it works is because we both have Summer's best interests at heart, and we try and make it work for her. She's so used to it. Honestly, I think adults have things to learn from kids because she adapts to change so well. And Andy's brilliant with her. 

"Me and Andy got together when Summer was two, so she wasn't a 'baby' baby. For the first year, when she was aged two to three, he only met her a couple of times. I didn't want him to fully integrate into her life if it wasn't going to work, but since then their relationship has massively developed, and now having Albie, it works really well."

You and Andy had a tough year with your miscarriage and surgery. Why was it important for you to speak about it?

"We went for our 12-week scan and I felt so sorry for the woman. Straight away we knew something was wrong. 

"She looked at the screen and she didn't say anything. We got taken to a room upstairs. I didn't have any symptoms; I hadn't bled or had a stomach ache. It was very unexpected for me and Andy, and everything just happened ridiculously quickly.

"We were told there was no heartbeat and that I had to have surgery the next day. I was like, 'Ok'. I never knew that it had to go down that route.

"Then afterwards, they said, 'You've lost two litres of blood' and I couldn't go home. I finally managed to go home and that's when I started to feel really poorly. I got admitted to hospital and was told I'd got sepsis. I was in the hospital for four days. It was really scary because I felt so ill. I'd never felt so bad before.

"It was so hard because you're dealing with this heartbreak of losing a child as well as being really, really ill and we really struggled to process and understand it all. Andy was ridiculously sad, as he should be, but everyone just kept asking him, 'How's Becky' – and I do get it from an illness perspective, why people were asking if I was ok – but Andy was really upset.

"He really struggled. His favourite thing is being a dad, so I felt really bad for him that no one was asking how he was or how he was feeling about it. I don't think people meant to focus on me – I think it was just because I was so poorly.

"Even recently, I've come to terms with it a little bit more and it wasn't until we were on holiday recently that Andy was like, 'We would have had another baby by now because our due date has just gone'. I felt really bad – not that I'd forgotten – but that I didn't want to go down that process of what would have been, because it wasn't meant to be. Whereas Andy was still in that place.

"As a couple, you both deal with things very differently. We are blessed with two healthy children, but it doesn't diminish the fact that we are sad that it happened."

Rebecca Adlington stuns in a pretty-in-pink jumpsuit
The Olympian stuns in a pretty-in-pink jumpsuit

You've been so open about your experience. How are you both feeling now about expanding your family?

"I've got polycystic ovaries so we really struggled to conceive anyway. It's not easy. All of my friends have had difficulty with either getting pregnant, birth or something's happened in some capacity. With our miscarriage, we totally didn't realise how many there are. So many of our friends said to us, 'We had a miscarriage as well'. I felt really bad because I never knew.

"We didn't tell people to get them to feel sorry for us; I didn't want people to be like, 'Oh Becks isn't herself recently'. I just wanted to address the elephant in the room and say, 'Look, this is what I'm going through at the minute', and so did Andy.

"I didn't want to pretend. For us it was really important that we had that emotional and physical support around us and to hear from other people how they've dealt with it.

"Now it's at that stage where Andy would love another one. I'm a bit more… we've got two beautiful children, if it happens, it happens. I just don't want to get my hopes up because I think if we did have another, even if we got pregnant, I would be really nervous with the pregnancy. I think that's what happens when you've had a miscarriage.

"I feel responsibility. I've said to Andy, it's my body; it's hard for the woman because you have to protect it. I feel like I've let him down, which I know I haven't but when it's your body you can't help feeling that.

"I think the first thing I said to him was, 'I'm so sorry' and he was like, 'What are you apologising for?' because it just wasn't meant to be. From speaking to the health professionals, there was nothing I could have done, but you can't help feeling that way as a woman.

"There are so many barriers [for us] so I don't want to be dead set on having another one because I'm just going to be disappointed if it doesn't happen. I'm probably being a bit too realistic about it and a bit too 'let the universe decide'."

What were the first few months of motherhood with Summer and Albie like for you?

"Summer was completely different, the first child. That was a massive whirlwind. Plus me and Summer's dad separated when she was like six months old or something, so she was really, really young.

"The challenge was going through something personally – it's hard to not let that affect you as a mother when you're going through those challenges. For me, it was a case of separating the two and still trying to be the best mum possible. I absolutely loved it. Summer completely changed me more than Albie.

"I wasn't very maternal and everyone thought I was going to be the bad cop because I am very direct – they thought I'd be the tough parent – then she was born and it completely changed who I was. I became a right softie. I'm always good cop. Everyone always tells me off if I'm too soft with the kids. That maternal side came out.

"The difficulty with Albie was he was born when lockdown was still on, so Summer was off school and I was trying to balance having a newborn and lockdown. My sisters hadn't even met Albie. He was probably a month old when they finally met him. That whole thing was a bit bizarre when you look back now."

Rebecca Adlington opens up about the first few months of motherhood
Rebecca opens up about the first few months of motherhood

That must have been emotional, not being able to seeing everyone…

"Really emotional, especially with my mum and dad. We were lucky we then got to visit. I think my mum and dad got to see him within a week.

"Breastfeeding was really difficult. Albie had a really bad tongue tie so he had to have that cut. The first week, I just cried because it was so painful. My poor nipples! I was trying to explain to Andy what it was like. It's like a razor is on your boob – it's the only way to describe it. It was horrendous, but then as soon as Albie got his tongue done, it was like a dream, it didn't hurt."

How did you find the post-birth recovery period?

"With Summer, I never bounced back to what I was pre baby. My body shape completely changed. When I was swimming my body shape was smaller hips, big shoulders, almost like a V shape. I think my body was naturally changing out of that swimmer's figure anyway, then my hips got really big, and with Albie, I've just never been able to lose that stomach. My stomach pouch.

"With Summer, I used all of those stretch mark creams and they did start to fade and ease, but with Albie, they aren't going anywhere. They are for life! They are deep, they're not going anywhere, those scars and stretch marks."

You've spoken about experiencing bladder weakness post-birth…

"There's an NHS app [Kegel exercises] and I did all of that, and after about nine or ten months [after having Summer] I was back in the gym. Don't get me wrong, it was different. There were things that weren't fun to do any more in the gym, i.e. a burpee!

"Then with Albie, it was an absolute no go - even just the slightest jump. It was really bad. When Albie was about one, I went to the doctor because it wasn't right and recently I saw a specialist, who said I have a prolapsed bladder. It means my bladder has basically dropped and isn't in the right place and that's causing all the issues – I'm going to have to have surgery.

"I spoke to Andy about it and with everything that happened last year with the miscarriage, surgery and sepsis, I'm just not in the mental state to go through surgery right now. I would rather just have to deal with a little bit of pee coming out when I cough for a few years.

"I know it will get to the point where I do need the surgery, but for now it's not a massive amount of pain. Yes, I need the toilet all the time, I can't do jumps in the gym and have to be a bit careful, but I'd rather that than go through surgery right now."

Do you think there's a stigma around it?

"I do think women joke about needing to go for a wee all the time. There's always a queue in the women's toilets. Girls are a lot more open to talking about that sort of stuff and I think that has got a lot better."

Did Summer and Albie sleep ok as babies?

"They weren't horrific but they weren't amazing either. It took Summer a lot longer. She didn't start sleeping through until she was nearly one. Albie still gets up and cries most nights. He still doesn't technically sleep through, but he doesn't wake at 4am. Some parents have that every day; we're not like that with him."

Was there anything specific you did with them in the first few months to help them sleep?

"We actually used sleep specialists with Summer and Albie. I was getting to the point with Albie where I thought, 'What are we doing wrong?' He was hysterically screaming. I was like, 'Oh my god, is he in pain, is he ok?' I was genuinely worried.

"We'd go in and rock him to sleep for two or three hours, but speaking to the sleep specialist, that wasn't always the right thing to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't hug your child, but we were probably enabling it more and more. We never let him go to sleep by himself; we were doing it for him every time, so they said we needed to step away a little bit.

"The sleep specialist did a step method where you go in for 30 seconds, come out for a minute, then go in for 30 seconds, then come out for 2 minutes, and you extend it. I found that really helpful with Albie and it definitely made a difference. You just feel jetlagged. I think that's the only way you can describe it."

rebecca adlington exclusive shoot hello
Rebecca talks to HELLO! about bladder weakness as part of our exclusive shoot with TENA to help break down taboos

What's next for you? Tell us about your swimming lesson business…

"I work full-time now. My business is called Swim. I absolutely love my job and we're building more and more swimming pools. Swimming pools are closing up and down the country; we're opening them. We've got ten pools and we're opening up our eleventh one in the summer.

"So that's been a real personal and professional development. I didn't go to university or do anything like that, so now being part of owning and running a business has been a real journey for myself.

"After sport, loads of people either go into media or presenting or different avenues of coaching, so for me it's been an absolute dream to go into business. I thought that wouldn't happen for me, not having that academic side. I sometimes do go through a bit of imposter syndrome in board meetings thinking, 'Ooh should I be here?!' But I absolutely love it.

"I still love doing the BBC stuff any time swimming is on telly. Obviously, the Olympics are next year so hopefully we'll be working with the BBC again."

Shop the TENA Discreet Pads to help manage bladder weakness

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It's important to always seek medical advice, but in the meantime the TENA Discreet Ultra Pads range are specifically designed for bladder weakness keeping you dry and odour free for up to 12 hours, so as a busy mum you can go about your everyday life in confidence. No more worries about little leaks at inopportune moments!

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