There’s a celebrity baby boom on the Gold Coast. ORM got the jam-packed diaries out and headed off to meet three blossoming local stars. Beyond the smiles on air, TV screens and on social media, all of these women’s pregnancies have been challenging in their own way…
The Gold Coast is a small big town. These three friends all work in the media – and have supported each other through their pregnancies.
Three Gold Coast celebs are set to expand their families, and they all have one thing in common: the mums are all famous faces. As ORM arrives at Emily Jade O’Keeffe’s beautiful house, a day of girlie chats and baby banter awaits.
The house? Picture Hampton’s glam. Inside: sleek, colourful chic design is as overwhelming as the love and warmth that greets you. Like the newborns they are set to welcome, the story of this house was a long journey, too.
When Emily Jade and husband Gerard saw this block of land, they agreed it was, in a word, “epic”. But first it needed to become their home – and before they could begin on that, they had to knock down the very old ’70s house that stood there at the time.
Luckily, this is a couple who aren’t afraid of a challenge. So much do they thrive on a challenge, in fact, they’d built three houses in four years: they built two homes in Brisbane from scratch and then built this Gold Coast home.
During the first build, Emily Jade was pregnant with daughter Millie, now 6.
Emily Jade has bravely spoken on air at Hot Tomato (102.9 FM), where she co-hosts the breakfast show, about the long IVF journey she and Gerard have endured to get to this point. As she strokes her blossoming bump, it’s clear this baby is already cherished.
Her doctor, Pindara Private Hospital’s Dr Gary Swift, is currently on holiday and set to return three days before her due date. “I’d love him to deliver the baby,” she says. “He’s been here through the whole journey. It took five years to make this – he deserves to catch it!”
While Millie was not an IVF baby, the couple had two years of fertility treatment as she suffers from a thyroid disease called Hashimotos and Endometriosis. For Millie, Emily Jade had had an endometriosis scrape with Lipiodol treatment – “poppy seed oil is injected into the tubes,” she explains. “Then we were told to go home and rest for a month before starting our first round of IVF”. Well, rest is one word for it!
Miracle Millie was conceived after that first treatment of Lipiodol, IVF was not needed. Emily Jade then had two more treatments to try to conceive a second child. One resulted in a pregnancy, which she lost in 2016. The other Lipiodol treatment was combined with IVF. With this pregnancy, doctors inserted two eggs, which acted as cheerleaders for each other. She fell pregnant.
“Lipiodol is like a force field for the endo,” Emily Jade says. “It coats the womb and they think it is like a barrier for my endometriosis coming in”. Gerard and I talk about the two fertilised eggs being like cheerleaders for each other, as if they’re saying, ‘Go on, you can do it!’”
Even now, tears aren’t far away when Emily Jade speaks of her battle for this baby. IVF was not her only challenge, half way through this pregnancy, at 20 weeks, she had emergency surgery when she was diagnosed with an Incompetent Cervix, she had a stitch placed in to stop her baby from an early birth, the stitch saved her babies life. She and her breakfast co-hosts, Sean Flanagan and Christo, have giggled their way through talk of her medically named ‘geriatric womb’ and ‘incompetent cervix’, but this has been seriously emotionally challenging. At the time of ORM’s shoot, Emily Jade has just had the stitch out of her amusingly named cervix. We know she had it out, because she’s happy to show it to us – ahh, the openness of a breakfast radio host.
“It’s very GC: my womb’s had a facelift,” she jokes. As she merrily waves said stitch around in its plastic container, she’s perfectly distracted to tell the story of finding out she was, finally, pregnant.
“In five years of IVF I wouldn’t cry in front of the nurses when I got a negative result – I’d wait until I got back into the car,” she says. “To be honest, I got used to hearing ‘no’. I got used to crying in the car and then calling Gerard. My bloods had to be sent to Brisbane via special courier, because I’m on air when the regular route goes. That day at the clinic, I had to go to an event in the evening, and I wanted to know if I could have a glass of wine or not. So the nurse spun my blood and we sat and watched the pregnancy test. It came up pregnant, and I started sobbing in front of her. She went to get tissues and she started crying. Another nurse came in to check on us. Soon we were all crying. Then another nurse came in and said, ‘Are you girls okay?’ Then we were all hugging. Then we told the scientist. Then the receptionist came in to see what was going on. I knew them all, because I’d been going for years. Then I realised I hadn’t called Gerard, so we called him on speaker. Can you imagine the squealing?”
Emily Jade’s smile couldn’t get any bigger as she recalls the sheer joy of those moments, finally rewarded for the tough emotional toll of several years and attempts gone by. As she smiles, Millie comes over to gently lay her head on the bump and, very calmly, drifts into a trance. There’s a bond already and this beloved baby hasn’t even been born yet.
Of course, because life never likes to be too easy, predictable or perfectly timed, just after she’d found out she was pregnant in 2016, Emily Jade had been called into contract negotiations. She miscarried a week later.
“It’s so hard for women,” she says. “I was in this impossible situation where I felt bad. I didn’t take my A-game into negotiations, because I knew if all went well, I’d be having a baby. But I was only four or five weeks’ pregnant. It’s one thing telling your co-hosts, because they know everything that’s going on in your life, but you can’t tell your bosses.”
What’s her advice to other women who find themselves in similar situations?
“Don’t feel guilty!” she says. “It’s your career. You’ve got to push and negotiate the way you would if this [a baby] wasn’t even on the table.”
There’s a shift in Emily Jade’s tone when she talks about her career. “Having children changed me – having Millie changed me,” she confesses. “I was very ambitious. I was always taking on more work, more TV, more events. After I had Millie, I found I was wishing away time at work. I was trying to find a carer so I could appear on TV or host another event. Seeing the look on Millie’s face when I would leave for work, it’s changed me.”
And with that, we’re discussing ‘love languages’. There are five, according to Gary D Chapman, if you’re not familiar (receiving gifts, quality time, hearing words of affirmation, physical touch and acts showing devotion).
“Millie’s love language is quality time,” Emily Jade says, snacking on a wafer biscuit. “For her, spending time with me is what she needs, and I don’t want her to grow up feeling like she’s not loved. She’ll look up at me sadly and ask, ‘Where are you going, Mummy? What time will you be back?’ I just can’t do it to her.”
While being ordered to 10 weeks’ bed rest wasn’t part of the pregnancy plan in many ways this gave Millie the very best gift she could have wished for: her mummy’s time.
“She got to lay with me for hours; it was a blessing in disguise for Millie” Emily Jade says. “Everything will be different this time around. I know what to expect. In those early stages when it all feels too much and too overwhelming, I know everything will pass. I will enjoy the moment and truly enjoy the joy. The biggest joy this pregnancy has been Millie. I’ve never seen her cry like when we told her I was pregnant and she was going to be a big sister. It’s the first time I’ve seen her with so much emotion she just didn’t know what to do with it. She’s been part of the process, and it’s been beautiful.”
Preparations for baby number two are in full swing; the baby shower was last weekend. This was no low-key event: we’re talking 75 women and children, a photo booth, nappy signing, games, colourful cake, popcorn and a platter of food.
Millie arrived in one hour and twenty minutes, “so we don’t know how much time we’ll have!” Emily Jade says. Best friend Nicole (whose love language is quality time too) is on standby in case Gerard can’t get to the hospital in time.
The nappies with scribbled messages sit patiently waiting in a drawer in the new baby’s nursery. It’s calm and serene – for now. ‘Just remember how hard you worked for this’, one scribbled message says. “1, 2, 3, hold your breath,” another says. Even two-year-old Lexi wrote one…
Lexi is Gold Coast fitness trainer Revie Jane Schultz’s daughter. Emily Jade, who in her oodles of spare time is also a marriage celebrant, officiated at her wedding.
“We met in 2012 and just hit it off,” Revie says. “Plus, my partner and Gerard are both in ‘Team Flamingo’, which is men with amazing bodies but skinny legs!”
Can’t imagine why these two get along.
Revie’s pregnancy story contains challenges too. Her belly popped really early in both pregnancies, so she had to announce it around eight weeks in. Being in the fitness industry, all eyes are on your body, so you can’t keep anything a secret. There are no baggy layers to hide behind when you’re doing exercise videos. Sadly, not everyone was supportive along her journey. Revie was badly trolled online, with comments so cruel it feels wrong to dwell on them while surrounded with such positivity, strength and talk of newborns.
She and partner Clayton Schulz are busy with preparations too. “We met eight years ago and just love the GC lifestyle,” she says while Melissa the magic makeup artist dusts on subtle eye shadow. “I showed early in both pregnancies because of genetics – basically, hormones bloat me. The thing is strangers don’t know your body and neither do they know your fitness routine. So they have no context when it’s reported you’re lifting a certain weight. It’s all very personal and specific to the broader picture of your individual workout program. But basically people weren’t happy I was lifting weights and doing strength training while I was pregnant. Everyone has an opinion.”
The truth is that purely because you work in fitness, it doesn’t make your body public property. Neither does it mean you’ll automatically bounce back super-quickly just because you have abs before becoming pregnant.
“I did anything but bounce back, honestly!” Revie laughs. “I was a size eight, very fit and had a tight core. But after I had Lexi, my priority was my baby. I didn’t rush back to the gym. I did a 10- or 15-minute workout when I could fit it in, when there was an opportunity, when she was sleeping, for instance. I kept Lexi back from daycare because I wanted to soak up the experience of motherhood. Still I was criticised by people who don’t know me. For me, fitness is my self-care; it’s part of my mental health. So I didn’t take on the mum guilt. It’s hurtful that I’m scrutinised the most when I’m pregnant. That’s a time when any woman most needs support and least needs criticism.”
Thankfully, Revie managed to push criticism to one side, thanks to a little support from friends in the biz who just get it.
“I had to look past the judgement,” she says. “Motherhood can be very isolating. You’re struggling, you’re having a meltdown and I like to share positives for other women in those moments. I enjoy connecting with other women. I like to share, because I’ve been there. My social media started with fitness routines and has grown from there. I do meal prep and it’s expanded into day-to-day life with my daughter too.”
As Melissa the makeup artist perfects finishing touches to Revie’s lashes, Channel 7 presenter Liz Cantor arrives. Actually, her smile arrives first.
She’s expecting her second child with husband Ryan Lysaught. Together they have 18-month-old son Kit. They’re waiting to find out the sex of this baby.
“It’s exciting doing it that way,” she says. “I’m surrounded by blokes – I would love a girl, but we’ll just have to wait and see with this one! I’ve had challenges through my pregnancy, but I’m fit, I’m active and I like to challenge myself physically. I’m fascinated with what our bodies are capable of. I had a C-section with Kit due to a low-lying placenta and hypertention. While at first I was disappointed to miss out on the chance of experiencing labour, the birth was still the biggest adrenaline rush of my life. At the end of the day, holding Kit in my arms, I definitely didn’t feel that I’d missed out on anything. In fact, I was just in awe of what we are medically capable of and so grateful to my OB, Dr Andrew Cary at Pindara.”
It’s probably safe to say that nowhere else on the Gold Coast is a cluster of women having a conversation that includes pregnancy, sickness and the lotto.
Here we are – ORM – always the centre of the action.
“I had really bad all-day sickness,” Liz confesses. “I’d be driving to Brisbane for work and have to pull over and vomit on the side of the M1 with trucks roaring by.”
As she takes a breather while Melissa perfects her eyeliner, I glance over at Emily Jade’s stitch, which is sitting in the bottle on the table next to some fake eyelashes. Nope, this is definitely not happening anywhere else on the Gold Coast!
Liz and Emily Jade have been friends for 15 years. “We’ve worked in the same industry together, where a lot of people quickly come and go, for more than 15 years now!” Liz says, liner finished. “We move in the same circles. We’re like-minded people, so we gravitate toward each other. I love to see other women doing well in the media industry. It’s not a competition, and I feel like Emily has the same thought that the better we are all doing individually, the better for women as a whole in the industry, so we love to help each other and get it out there what we’re capable of and our passion for storytelling, information sharing and the job! We’ve always really supported each other.”
The tag team of co-parenting has worked well with first child Kit. “We’ve got it down pat,” Liz says. “At 4 pm on the days where I have to drive to Brisbane to present the lotto, Ryan picks up the parenting. We juggle really well. Will it go as slickly this time? We’ll have to wait and see! It depends on this baby’s needs and whether they’re happy to fit into our routine. I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out on anything, but we seem to have a pretty good system so far. Although leaving Kit is never easy, it’s such a comfort to know that he’s so happy in the care of Ryan or my mother-in-law. And I get a full day with him before leaving for work.”
Liz is 36 this year. “It’s taken me by surprise,” she says. “I was brought up by a working mother and, like a lot of girls are, was told that you need to achieve your career goals first, live your life, then have children. Suddenly, I’m going to be 36. People are saying, ‘You’d better have your children quickly or you’ll miss out’. I’m thinking, ‘Where was this conversation when I was younger?’ I have a circle of girl friends here on the GC; some are in their forties and they’re established in their careers, but they don’t have children. It suddenly creeps up on you, and they’re now thinking, ‘I know medically there are all sorts of advancements, but will this actually happen for me?’”
If there’s one word that unites all three of these women, it’s thankful.