“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.
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