Christmas has come early for Natalie and Zafar Rushdie. The couple are thrilled to announce they are expecting their second child – and the news has brought some much-needed joy to their family after a tough time.
"It feels like a new chapter for us," says Zafar, when HELLO! joins him and jazz singer Natalie for an exclusive photoshoot and interview at London's Lanesborough hotel.
Adding to their joy, the couple are expecting another girl – a little sister for their three-year-old Rose – and she's due to arrive next April.
The family's tough times
"It's nice to have a positive lovely thing to look forward to," Natalie says. "The whole family have experienced turmoil over the last couple of years."
Indeed, her pregnancy signifies light after a dark period. In August 2022, Zafar's father, Booker Prizewinning writer Sir Salman Rushdie, was left severely injured by an attack in New York, months after Natalie had become critically ill with Covid, as well as sadly losing her father.
Sir Salman's reaction to the baby news
"The whole family is really excited to welcome another baby," says Zafar, 44, the founder of PR and events company The Green Room, with a smile.
"[Salman] was so shocked when we told him. He said: 'This is wonderful news,'" adds Natalie, 37, whose glittering career has seen her perform at venues from Wembley Stadium to the Royal Albert Hall, release a moving charity single in honour of her late friend Dame Deborah James and rub shoulders with royalty; she enjoyed a friendly chat with the Princess of Wales in the royal box at Wimbledon over the summer.
Their daughter Rose
Another person delighted by the revelation was Rose, with her proud mum telling us the "funny and sassy" little girl is "really excited that she's getting a sister". "She watches Frozen a lot so her understanding of what it's like to have a sister comes from Princess Elsa and Princess Anna," she adds.
As with her pregnancy with Rose, Natalie suffered from bad morning sickness in the first 12 weeks, causing her to lose 16lb. "We had to tell Rose quite early on as she was getting upset because she didn't understand why Mummy was lying in bed and being sick. She started saying: 'Mummy, I'm sick too!'" she says.
Sir Salman the doting grandfather
The couple, who married in a lavish three-day celebration in New York in 2016, waited until Sir Salman was visiting the UK from his home in New York to tell him the good news. "My mum died when I was 20, so it's a shame that she's not around," says Zafar. "I think he feels a bit of an extra pressure representing both grandparents."
Sir Salman, 76, has stepped into the role of grandfather admirably, forming a close bond with Rose, whose middle name honours Zafar's mother Clarissa Luard. "She doesn't understand that he writes books, so she always says: 'Grandpa reads books,'" says Natalie with a laugh. "Every time he comes over, she'll give him a book to read. He reads Princess books to her."
The novelist's horrific attack
The acclaimed novelist is doing remarkably well following the horrific attack, which saw him go on a ventilator and lose his sight in one eye, among other injuries. "He's doing really well, all things considered," Zafar says. "Obviously recovery takes time, but he's nothing if not resilient and we are all super proud of how he has done."
Sir Salman has written his own account of the ordeal in his upcoming book Knife. The book's release in April will coincide with the birth of the new baby and while Natalie has a few nerves, she is feeling "quite calm" about the scheduled Caesarean: "I had a really positive birth with Rose so I'm hoping to have another positive experience."
Before that, the Rushdies are planning a "relaxed" family Christmas at home and Natalie can't wait to experience the festive season through Rose's eyes. "I always think it's an honour to watch children grow up," she says. "Watching the world of a toddler is just magical; everything is exciting. I think we can learn so much from them."
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