Rachel Burden on raising a family in Cheshire
- Credit: Archant
BBC broadcast journalist Rachel Burden’s busy life became even busier. mairead mahon visited Rachel at her home near Knutsford to hear all about it
One question that BBC Radio Five Live Breakfast presenter Rachel Burden is used to answering is the one that asks if her fourth child, Henry, was a surprise.
‘I can see why people might think that he was: after all, I do have three other children - two girls and a boy - the youngest is seven, so there is a gap but Henry was very much planned. I spent quite some time persuading my journalist husband, Luke, that our family would be complete with a fourth child; quite something when we had originally planned to have only two. In fact, I confidently assured him that the fourth baby would arrive without any fuss and there would be very little disruption to our lives but, as they say, even the best laid plans can go wrong,’ laughs Rachel.
The first indication Rachel had that all might not be quite as it should be was when her ankles became terribly swollen, she began to suffer from indigestion and an overwhelming sense of tiredness.
‘Mind you, even then I put it down to the fact that, in unflattering maternity terms, I was practically a geriatric and anyway, I was still presenting on Radio 5 Live, as well as looking after my three children - surely I could expect to be exhausted? It wasn’t until I went for a check-up, in February 2016, that it was discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high and I was diagnosed as suffering from severe pre-eclampsia. I have a vivid memory of being wired up to a machine but cheerfully telling the medical staff that I really would have to be going soon, as I was due to make an outdoor broadcast in Glasgow!’
However, the breaking news for Rachel didn’t involve Glasgow in any way: instead, it was that she was going to give birth within 48 hours in the 31st week of her pregnancy. She was moved to the neonatal unit at Burnley Hospital and Henry was born, via caesarean section, weighing exactly three pounds. He was tiny and Rachel wasn’t allowed to hold him for two days, but luckily he didn’t suffer from any other health problems.
‘We were incredibly lucky and knew that we would just have to be patient and wait for him to grow’.
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Over the next eight weeks, Burnley Hospital and later Macclesfield Hospital became home for Rachel and Henry, where she spent a great deal of time gathering her own strength and encouraging him to feed. Luke and the children chose his name.’ I don’t know why they picked Henry and, anyway to be honest, I was just too exhausted to really have an opinion. Luckily, I like it and, most importantly, it suits him’ says Rachel.
The day she left hospital, was an emotional one. ‘Luke and the children were all away for half-term and I remember putting Henry into his car seat and suddenly weeping. I think it was happiness that I was going home with a perfect baby but I also wished that I could be bringing a nurse or two back with me: after all, until this point, I had been cocooned with their care and now I was on my own. Mind you, the family came back the following day and it wasn’t long before normal family life resumed. There are still plenty of squabbles but, you know, we are all united in our adoration of Henry and yes, he knows it,’ laughs Rachel.
Normal family life consists of enjoying the beauty of the Cheshire countryside that surrounds Rachel’s 18th century cottage near Knutsford, as well as visiting family friendly pubs for the occasional competitive round of Monopoly and picking elderflowers to make one of the family’s favourite drinks, elderflower cordial.
Four children does mean that Rachel’s family life is quite relaxed but bedtime is one of those times when firm rules have to be applied and adhered to.
‘Well, because of my Radio 5 live schedule, I have to be up early and bedtime for me is usually 8.30pm. However, as the children are still up, there has to be a strict rule that no-one is allowed in my room after that time, unless it is an absolute emergency and even then, think twice. I can find it difficult to switch off because my head is so full of work and children but recently, I’ve been introduced to the benefits of a ten-minute meditation before sleep in order to unwind. I used to manage it by reading but I can tell you that four children and weighty tomes don’t mix! These days, I look forward to holidays when I try to binge read.
Rachel remains full of admiration for the NHS staff who looked after her and Henry so well. Earlier this year, when Henry was thirteen months old, she and the team at Radio 5 Live went back to Burnley to conduct an outside broadcast involving the staff and current patients.
‘It was such a moving experience and listeners rang in with their stories that involved joy and tragedy but that is one of the pleasures of radio: I trust my listeners and I like to think that they trust me,’ says Rachel, who has an enviable reputation as a respected journalist and broadcaster.
These days, Henry is a gorgeous, lively and sturdy boy so, given that Rachel and Luke first decided on two children, then three and then eventually four, it might be reasonable to ask if there are any plans for a fifth.
‘I think I can say, with some confidence, that the answer to that is definitely not. I have four children, a husband, a cat and a broadcasting career: life and the cottage are pretty full, because thankfully, even three pounders grow,’ laughs Rachel.
Rachel Burden presents Breakfast on BBC Radio 5 Live every morning from 6-9am.