“I FEEL SO BLESSED”

Just weeks af­ter hav­ing her sec­ond child, Rachael Finch talks to Stel­lar about the judge­ment di­rected at mums and why clean liv­ing means she’ll never be “a dull ver­sion” of her­self.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy PIERRE TOUS­SAINT Styling MA­RINA AFON­INA Creative Di­rec­tion ALEK­SAN­DRA BEARE Words AN­GELA MOLLARD

Rachael Finch has been up for eight hours and worked for six of them. She’s breast­fed be­tween out­fit swaps, deftly changed nap­pies, mopped up a wa­ter spill so her daugh­ter Vi­o­let doesn’t slip, and re­fu­elled on cubes of feta, olives and car­rot juice. Cradling her newborn son, she briefly closes her eyes and leans on her hus­band’s shoul­der while the Stel­lar pho­tog­ra­pher takes a minute to change lenses.

Un­til, that is, there’s an un­mis­tak­able squirt­ing sound.

Baby Dominic, sleep­ing con­tent­edly with­out a nappy at the pho­tog­ra­pher’s be­hest, has un­wit­tingly cho­sen a $2400 Alex Perry gown on which to have a small ac­ci­dent.

While oth­ers might shriek, leap up or fran­ti­cally try to dab at the mess on the sparkly pink fab­ric, Finch merely gig­gles and gazes down at the doz­ing newborn: “When you gotta go, you gotta go. That’s what hap­pens.”

To look at Finch – glow­ing, lean and with her pho­to­genic fam­ily by her side – it’s easy to feel envy for the 28-yearold’s good for­tune. Here she is, just four weeks af­ter her son’s birth, chatty and en­er­gised at a time when most new par­ents are strug­gling to grab a shower or ven­ture be­yond py­ja­mas.

But for the clean-liv­ing mother-oftwo, the prin­ci­ples of be­ing pre­sent and push­ing away stress are choices she not only preaches, but prac­tises. “I don’t want to be a dull ver­sion of my­self,” she says. “I want to be a great ver­sion of Rachael, not a moody, an­gry ver­sion. I’ve learnt that the more love, care and af­fec­tion we give our­selves, the bet­ter our bod­ies will be and the bet­ter peo­ple and par­ents we’ll be.”

It’s an at­ti­tude that helps her cope when things don’t go ac­cord­ing to plan. Hav­ing de­liv­ered three-year-old daugh­ter Vi­o­let af­ter a trou­ble-free six-hour labour, she was ex­pect­ing the same – or eas­ier – the sec­ond time round when her baby son was born last month. But Dominic had other ideas.

“Af­ter Vi­o­let I said to my­self I’d give birth again in a heart­beat, but Dominic was a much more in­tense labour,” Finch tells Stel­lar. “My con­trac­tions started at 9pm and he wasn’t born un­til mid­day the next day. It was such a long labour that we were so ex­cited when he fi­nally ar­rived, we for­got to look whether it was a boy or a girl. He’d been on my chest for 10 min­utes when the ob­ste­tri­cian asked whether we wanted to know. When she told us he was a boy, I felt so blessed. You can’t choose these things but it feels so per­fect to have a boy and a girl.”

While Vi­o­let has her mum’s brown eyes, it’s look­ing likely that Dominic, who weighed 3.45kg at birth, has in­her­ited his dad’s baby blues – the same eyes that first at­tracted Finch to her hus­band, Michael Miziner, when he was paired with her on Danc­ing With The Stars in 2010. “When I first saw Misha I thought, ‘He’s got to be gay!’” she laughs. “But those eyes were a big sell­ing point for me. They’re a very pure blue, so I hope Dominic keeps them.”

TO LOOK AT Finch’s In­sta­gram is to be in­vited into a world that seems im­pos­si­bly shiny. There are pic­tures of her look­ing golden and sinewy in exercise gear and biki­nis, cute shots of her chil­dren, and pho­tos of cups of cof­fee sit­ting invit­ingly on the sort of pol­ished con­crete floor you see more in mag­a­zines than in life. What’s more, the cap­tion re­veals that the cof­fee is laced with grass-fed but­ter, co­conut oil, cin­na­mon, vanilla and some­thing called maca powder. “I have my cof­fee like that ev­ery morn­ing,” she cheer­ily con­firms. “It’s re­ally good for en­ergy boost­ing and tastes like a fatty, creamy latte but with­out the milk.”

While ge­net­ics may have be­queathed her an ex­quis­ite face and body, Finch aug­ments her “well­ness” with dis­ci­pline and pos­i­tiv­ity, as em­bod­ied in the health and fit­ness plan, cen­tred around dance, that she and Miziner have de­vised. Launched just a month be­fore she gave birth, it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if Finch was itch­ing to get back into exercise gear to pro­mote its ben­e­fits. But hav­ing copped a ham­mer­ing for pos­ing in a bikini shortly af­ter giv­ing birth to Vi­o­let, she’s clearly keen to avert crit­i­cism the sec­ond time round. “It was lovely be­ing able to shoot like that with Vi­o­let but I wouldn’t do it with Dominic,” she says. “You make de­ci­sions at cer­tain times of your life that you wouldn’t make again.”

So was she both­ered by the back­lash? “Ev­ery­one’s en­ti­tled to their opin­ion. I love so­cial me­dia be­cause it’s a great

way to con­nect with the com­mu­nity around me and learn things from oth­ers. The down­side is ev­ery­one can com­ment and some­times those may not be the best com­ments.”

She’s frus­trated that new moth­ers – Bec Judd be­ing the most high-pro­file ex­am­ple – are chas­tised for post­ing pic­tures of their bod­ies af­ter birth. “Bec is a strong, courageous woman,” Finch says. “She’s run­ning a busy house­hold and sev­eral busi­nesses. I ad­mire her very much. She’s very in­tel­li­gent and car­ing, she’s a kind mother and she’s do­ing so well. No­body de­serves to be made to feel like they’re a bad mother or spo­ken to in a cruel way, no mat­ter who they are.”

For her part, Finch feels no pres­sure to “bounce back”, but took care of her body with strength cir­cuits, danc­ing, stretch­ing and med­i­ta­tion through­out her preg­nancy. She was back stretch­ing two days af­ter giv­ing birth but in­sists it’s about “en­ergy and vi­tal­ity, not get­ting the ul­ti­mate eight pack”.

If she seems cau­tious, it’s not sur­pris­ing. Finch and Miziner were widely cri­tiqued last year when they re­vealed Vi­o­let was looked af­ter by her grand­mother, Irena, from Fri­day nights through to Sun­day morn­ings so they could en­joy time to­gether. You’d have thought she’d ad­mit­ted to leav­ing her daugh­ter home alone with a packet of matches and a set of kitchen knives, so vit­ri­olic was the re­sponse. “Maybe she should adopt the child to some­one who will love her un­con­di­tion­ally,” carped one com­menter. “Why did she have a child if she’s not go­ing to be a full­time par­ent? The odd night babysit­ting is great but ev­ery week­end, well that’s just self­ish,” blasted an­other.

When asked about the furore, one year on, Finch picks her words care­fully, ex­plain­ing how she un­der­stands that cou­ples who work all week and have to put their chil­dren in day care might have taken of­fence. But, as she is quick to clar­ify, she and Miziner have var­ied sched­ules and spend much of their week look­ing af­ter Vi­o­let. “Peo­ple only see the out­side, they don’t un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of our re­la­tion­ship,” she tells Stel­lar. “Also, Vi­o­let’s started go­ing to birth­day par­ties at week­ends so she’s not at her grandma’s then. Any­way, now we have Dominic she can’t look af­ter two – well, not while he’s so lit­tle.”

Miziner, who was be­mused by the fuss, says his daugh­ter is for­tu­nate to have an ex­tended fam­ily around her. “If my mum hasn’t seen Vi­o­let for a cou­ple of weeks she rings and de­mands to know why. She and my grand­mother both love look­ing af­ter her.”

It’s clear the cou­ple, who ex­change lov­ing glances through­out the shoot, adore not only their chil­dren but also each other. Some­times, in quiet mo­ments, they still dance to­gether. And when Miziner says they par­ent equally, Finch heartily con­curs. “If Misha had breasts he would be breast­feed­ing! I knew from day one, from his de­meanour and the way he treats his mum, that he’d be like this. Yes­ter­day, I was in a [bad] mood and he gave me a pep talk, re­mind­ing me of all the things we have and how grate­ful we are. It snapped me out of it.”

In­deed, they are so en­thu­si­as­tic about rais­ing their chil­dren with the help of fam­ily that they have no in­ten­tion of send­ing Vi­o­let to preschool be­fore she starts pri­mary school. “Plenty of our friends have kids and she of­ten comes to work with us so she’s around peo­ple all the time,” Finch says.

As Vi­o­let gets older there are new chal­lenges, how­ever. Hav­ing been raised on a sugar-free diet, she’s now at­tend­ing birth­day par­ties with the usual ar­ray of sweets, cakes and other treats. “For the first two-and-a-half years of her life Vi­o­let didn’t know what sugar tasted like, and she still hasn’t had lol­lies,” Finch says. “Some­times at birth­day par­ties, par­ents don’t have sand­wiches or sushi or fruit, so be­fore she goes I make sure she’s full of healthy food. I’m with her and while I don’t say no to ev­ery­thing, she un­der­stands it’s a treat when she has a tiny slice of birth­day cake.”

DE­SPITE THE DE­MANDS of a fam­ily, Finch says she’s health­ier now than be­fore she had chil­dren. This is a house­hold that shuns take­away and pro­cessed food and very rarely par­takes in pasta, pizza and other re­fined carbohydrates. “I may have car­bonara or pizza once or twice a year,” Miziner says. And Finch? “I used to have an ice-cream or hot chips once a fort­night, but I don’t feel good af­ter­wards. It gives me a headache and makes me feel groggy.”

For cou­ples with full-time jobs and chil­dren in day care, Finch’s com­mit­ment to health and fit­ness may seem un­achiev­able. But there’s noth­ing fin­ger-waggy about her pas­sion for liv­ing a good life. She launched her Body of Dance pro­gram around her work as a Myer am­bas­sador and Seven Net­work per­son­al­ity, so un­der­stands that those who join up also have busy lives. “Our bod­ies are al­ways evolv­ing and if we tell our­selves we can’t have some­thing or we must do this or that, our body op­poses that men­tal re­stric­tion.”

De­spite the cou­ple’s suc­cess, they don’t spend lav­ishly, only eat­ing out on spe­cial oc­ca­sions, a phi­los­o­phy in keep­ing with Finch’s North Queens­land-honed at­ti­tude to life. “Grow­ing up in Townsville I en­joyed a very re­laxed life­style and that’s how I try to live now. As long as I’ve got two arms, two legs and a heart­beat, I’m grate­ful.”

Which isn’t to say she doesn’t have days where she has to work on keep­ing it all in per­spec­tive. “Some­times when I come home af­ter a long day, I have to ac­tively choose how I’m go­ing to be. As I put my key in the door and think about how I haven’t seen my fam­ily all day, I switch from feel­ing tired and recog­nise that they de­serve 100 per cent of me.”

With that, she changes out of the Alex Perry gown so it can be despatched for a thor­ough dry-clean, and heads home to make din­ner.

``some­times you make de­ci­sions that you wouldn´t make again´´

RACHAEL WEARS Mor­ri­son dress, Myer VI­O­LET WEARS Seed Her­itage top, skirt and hair bow, all Myer

HAIR Daren Borth­wick MAKE-UP Filom­ena Na­toli

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