“I am equally terrified and excited”
As she prepares for the birth of her third child, Carrie Bickmore speaks to Stellar about feeling a few jitters, her changing family dynamic and being able to take a maternity-leave break from hair and make-up.
She has temporarily stepped away from her high-profile job on TV and radio to prepare for the arrival of her third child. But as Carrie Bickmore is the first to admit, not even the hardest working woman in the Australian media always manages to keep all the balls in the air
Carrie Bickmore is feeing lucky. Sure, her back aches so badly that she must now wear a brace beneath those glamorous outfits on The Project.
And sure, she’s constantly exhausted from juggling the demands of raising two young children, along with a thriving radio and television career, while heavily pregnant with her third. Then there are the debilitating panic attacks which caused her to seek help from a counsellor.
But, despite all this, Bickmore says that she feels far too blessed to complain.
After all, the Gold Logie winner knows all too well just how fragile life can be. Bickmore was just eight when her mother Jennie suffered a stillbirth. And the now 37-year- old feels the loss of that sibling even more acutely since becoming a mother herself. “Because of that, I have always been very aware of not getting too ahead of myself,” she tells Stellar.
“You never know what the next day may bring. One minute there’s a room all set up [for the baby] and the next there’s not. To be a woman feeling that baby kick and move, being so close to the end and thinking to yourself: ‘I am almost home and hosed [with the pregnancy].’ So I don’t take anything for granted.”
Bickmore’s own road to motherhood has also been challenging at times. She suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage after giving birth to her first child Oliver (Ollie) Lange in 2007 and years later experienced the pain and loss of two miscarriages.
In the case of her firstborn, the expectant mother was at home when she suddenly began to bleed profusely and lost consciousness. Making an already horrendous situation even tougher was that her husband Greg was battling what proved to be terminal brain cancer at the time.
Despite his illness, Greg – with the help of friends and family – stepped into the breach and cared for their newborn son while new mother Bickmore recovered in hospital after a series of blood transfusions. “I believe that Ollie has probably grown up to be such a chilled-out kid because of what happened when he was born,” Bickmore says. “Because I was in hospital having blood transfusions, he had to be looked after by friends and family. He just had to roll with it.”
Three years after Ollie was born, Greg passed away and Bickmore busied herself with raising their son and building her career to secure their future.
Years later, when Bickmore found herself once again in a loving relationship with television producer Chris Walker, and expecting her second child, she began suffering panic attacks and sought help. “I started seeing a counsellor and it made a world of difference,” she explains. “I am not saying that I loved giving birth to Evie, but it was nothing like the problems I had the first time. I have been a lot less stressed this time around, but my heart rate still increases whenever I even think about childbirth.”
Even so, Bickmore is looking forward to welcoming her new son or daughter very soon. “I am equal parts terrified and excited,” she says. “I have been taking advice from other parents on managing three children because I honestly have no idea what to expect. I don’t have a lot of friends with three kids, so it’s all a bit of a mystery to me.”
Bickmore candidly admits that she is anxious about how the new baby will change the dynamics of her happy household, given her elder children, Ollie, 11, and Evie, three, are a closely knit duo. “Evie definitely rules the roost,” Bickmore says with a laugh. “She and Ollie share such a beautiful bond. He is such a great help to Chris and me because he plays with her and keeps her entertained.”
On telling her son earlier this year that she was expecting another baby just ahead of Christmas, Bickmore laughs as she recalls his wry response: “Great, more work for me.”
While she may make it look easy onscreen, Bickmore laments that being pregnant at the age of 37 has proven a lot harder than it was when she was expecting Ollie in her 20s. As her The Project co-host Peter Helliar quips, “I’m amazed at Carrie’s ability to co-host a prime-time TV show whilst growing a baby in her tummy… I would have given up after the first trimester.”
Before announcing she was pregnant for the third time, Bickmore suffered two miscarriages. She wrote about the heartbreaking experiences in a column for Stellar earlier this year and was struck by the impact it had.
“People still come up to me in the supermarket to talk about it and share their experiences,” she says. “Some women may never feel comfortable talking about it. People should just do what is right for them. I have never been ashamed about what happened. But it would have been too painful for me to have discussed it at the time.”
Only making the pain more difficult to cope with – and another heartache to which many women would also relate – was that Bickmore still fronted up to work.
Viewers who saw Bickmore’s smiling face on the screen would have had no idea that she had suffered such a terrible loss earlier that day.
“Yes, my job comes with challenges, but I am no different to any other woman who has gone through this,” she tells Stellar.
“I know teachers who have had to go in and teach a class full of kids after losing a baby that morning.”
Amid dealing with the emotional and physical upheaval of her third pregnancy, Bickmore has also found herself in the headlines throughout 2018 for her so-called feud with The Project’s new recruit Lisa Wilkinson, after – amid a blaze of publicity – the former Today show co-host debuted on Network Ten at the beginning of the year.
Although her appointment was followed by predictable stories about cat-fighting between the two high-profile female colleagues, Bickmore has maintained a dignified silence about the gossip. “I have not spoken about that and I am not going to speak about it,” she says.
“I don’t want to give it any more oxygen. If I talk about it, it just feeds the next article. I just keep my head down and work hard.”
As for Wilkinson, she in turn has no time to waste on the inevitable rumour mill. “We are all
“People still come up to talk with me about my miscarriages”
so thrilled for Carrie,” the fellow mother-of-three says of Bickmore’s looming new arrival. “She is such a can-do woman, and despite her busy schedule she will just make it work. My only advice to her is that once the kids outnumber the parents, you’re done. Just give in to the chaos and hope for the best.”
Bickmore isn’t sure how much maternity leave she will be taking, but has been assured by her bosses at both Ten and the Hit Network to take as much time as she needs.
“I’ve actually timed it quite well because it will be summer and it’s much easier to get up in the middle of the night when it’s not freezing cold,” she says with a laugh.
“I am looking forward to being back in that world. I really enjoyed that time with Evie. It will be great not to have to worry about my hair and make-up for a while, too.”
Of course, that isn’t entirely true. Bickmore is only too aware that there are often photographers lurking behind trees waiting to snap that money shot of her with her young family.
It is an ongoing byproduct of her job that she still finds difficult to come to terms with. “Before people start screaming that I knew what I was getting myself into when I chose this life, let me just say I reject that idea,” she says.
“I wanted to be a journalist – not a celebrity. When I was a 19-year-old at university, I took tutorials in defamation, not on navigating the line between my public and private life.”
The upside of her celebrity, however, has been that it has enabled her to help draw attention and raise much-needed funding for research into curing brain cancer.
When she accepted her 2015 Gold Logie wearing a beanie that she had secreted under her sparkling evening gown, Bickmore set in motion a chain of events that has seen her charity, Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer, raise almost $11 million for research into the disease.
“When you do something like this, people understandably expect you to open up,” she says of her work in raising public awareness of brain cancer. “That isn’t easy to do. Talking about something really, really tragic that changed our lives forever isn’t easy to explain.”
Raised in Perth, Bickmore studied journalism at Curtin University before moving to Melbourne in 2001 to work in radio. She got her start in television as the newsreader-with-a-difference on Rove Live in 2006 after one of his producers heard her exchanging banter with Kate Langbroek and Dave Hughes on their radio show. “She is one of those rare people in life who is pretty much what you see is what you get,” Rove Mcmanus tells Stellar.
“So many of us hide behind Instagram posts of what we want to be. Carrie really is exactly what you see onscreen. She is warm. She’s genuine. She’s funny. And I count myself incredibly lucky to be one of the people who can call her a friend.”
And like many who know Bickmore, he marvels at her busy lifestyle. “Here she is, a soon-to-be mother of three and she’s doing The Project and her radio show. She does her research. She’s always the first person in to work. And she actually gets up to exercise. She does all of that and she is a great mum.”
Tommy Little, who co-hosts the pair’s weekday afternoon radio show, concurs. “She’ll always ask me how my day is going first, and I’ll be ranting for five minutes about how busy I’ve been before I remember that I’m talking to the busiest woman in showbiz, who also has two kids and a third on the way,” he says.
“She never pulls me up on it though – she listens, smiles and offers help. It’s vintage Bickmore behaviour and yet another reason why she’s the best.”
Fifi Box, a regular panellist on The Project, tells Stellar that Bickmore is a rarity in an industry often prone to the superficial.
“It’s not easy to find true, sincere friendships in the media, so I’ve been incredibly lucky to find Carrie, who is the most supportive and loyal friend. She has dropped everything when I’ve needed her.”
Yet Bickmore is the first to admit she doesn’t always keep all the balls in the air. Recently she forgot it was French dress-up day at Ollie’s school, but solved the crisis with a drawn-on moustache, a recycled Where’s Wally? costume and a last-minute dash to the bakery for a baguette.
She confesses, too, that she discovered her son played the clarinet only when he reminded her about an upcoming concert.
“I rang Chris and asked him, ‘Did you know Ollie plays the clarinet?’ And he had no idea either,” she giggles.
“I am a working mum, just like mine was. Occasionally I’ll miss things. Things might be forgotten. But that’s OK. When it comes to our time together, it is quality not quantity.”
“I am a working mum, and occasionally I will miss things”
CARRIE WEARS Lee Mathews dress, leemathews. com.au; her own undergarments
CARRIE WEARS Maria Lucia Hohan dress, myer.com.au; A.emery sandals, aemery.com
A NEW PROJECT (below, from top) Carrie Bickmore with her The Project co-hosts (from left) Peter Helliar, Waleed Aly and Angela Pippos last month; with Tommy Little on their radio show Carrie & Tommy in September; with partner Chris Walker, Ollie and Evie, announcing their baby news in June.
CARRIE WEARS Gucci blouse, gucci.com; Viktoria & Woods pants, viktoriaandwoods.com.au Shot on location at Montsalvat, Eltham, Victoria