When we meet This Morning’s medical experts Dr Zoe Williams and Dr Sara Kayat for special our Mother’s Day shoot, the pair are thrilled to be reunited.
We find out it’s Sara’s first time meeting Zoe’s nine-month-old son Lisbon and the moment is one of pure joy. Her little boy Harris – who will be two in May – toddles over excitedly to give Lisbon a hug and stroke his face, leaving both lads with huge smiles and a twinkle in their eyes.
Zoe, 41, and Sara, 37, are both looking forward to a lie-in this Mother’s Day and are hoping their partners Stuart McKay, and Rupert Walker, 42, serve up some kind of special breakfast.
Although the day will certainly be a happy one, we’re moved when Sara and Zoe open up about their own mums.
Sara speaks about her mum’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, explaining that “she’s not been OK for quite a few years now.” However, she intends to continue celebrating the woman she says has made her everything she is.
Zoe is also candid about her relationship with her mum, who sadly passed awayin 2017 after a long battle with alcohol addiction. “I’m not sure how helpful she’d be able to be if she was still here but I’ve often thought it’d be great to have her at the end of the phone,” she tells us.
Here, the medics discuss the lessons they’ve learnt, their off-screen friendship and their happiest moments as mums…
Hi, both. What has becoming a mum meant to each of you?
Zoe: Relief. I was planning to go it alone before I met Stuart, as I’d wanted to be a mum for about a decade but I hadn’t met the right partner. I felt fearful that I’d spend the rest of my life not being a mum, so I froze my eggs a few years ago.
Sara: I have a lot more love for my upbringing and so much respect for my parents. It’s hard!
Do Rupert and Stuart have any plans for you?
Sara: I have reminded Rupert, so I can only hope I’ll get at least a pancake for breakfast. Last year he gave me a lovely pendant with an ‘H’ on it. I put a bit of Harris’ hair in it and I never take it off.
Zoe: Stuart and I are both pretty last-minute, he probably hasn’t even thought about it yet. I’d be happy with a lie-in and breakfast in bed [laughs].
Zoe, your mum passed away in 2017. Is this time of year bittersweet for you?
Zoe: For the first time, Mother’s Day will be less thinking about my mum and more thinking about me. My mum raised me and my brother as a single parent and was incredible. She was a role model in my early stages but our relationship shifted as I got older. I missed having the close mother-daughter bond my uni friends had as she was unwell for a long time before she passed away.
Will you spend time with your mum, Sara?
Sara: My mum has severe Alzheimer’s. She’s not been OK for quite a few years. We will celebrate, but I suppose it’s more we celebrate her rather than with her. I think it’s important to carry that on because she’s made me everything I am.
How have your relationships with your mums affected your own parenting?
Sara: My mum’s such a kind, loving, good woman and I want Harris to know that. We visit her a lot and Harris holds her hand, strokes her head, and sits with her when she sleeps.
Zoe: The one thing my mum taught me that’s more important than anything is a child must always feel loved. There was never any question in my mind as to whether she loved me.
That’s really beautiful. And how has life changed since your babies were born?
Zoe: I’ve become calmer about a lot of things. When you’re a parent you get so anxious about everything to do with your baby, you can’t afford to expend energy on things that don’t matter. Stuart and I never argued loads, but we argued. Since Lisbon’s been born, we’ve not had a single one. We don’t have the energy [laughs].
Sara: I naively thought Harris would fit around me, but that’s actually quite selfish. Having a child means fitting around them and letting them grow.
Was motherhood everything you expected?
Sara: Having Harris in lockdown meant I missed out on a lot of social interaction with other mums and babies. Now that everything is opening up I feel like I’m getting the experience I imagined.
Zoe: I think I was as prepared as possible, but I’ve spent many a night bouncing up and down on a swiss ball with Lisbon crying, thinking, “Wow! I really signed up for this.”
Has anything been hard to come to terms with?
Zoe: All the guilt you feel!
Sara: Accepting you will never sleep again.
You’re both being mums in the spotlight. Do you feel external pressure to be perfect?
Zoe: I do. Being a doctor, people think you know everything and you’ll follow every NHS guideline to the letter. That’s just not true.
Sara: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It can be a supportive environment but also be cruel and hurtful.
How do you deal with mum-shamers?
Zoe: Honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all. One person in a sea of positivity doesn’t deserve a lot of my attention.
Sara: You take it with a pinch of salt. Twitter is quite a toxic environment, so I’ve muted it for the sake of my mental health.
On a more positive note, what’s been the best thing about motherhood?
Sara: I found a part of me I never knew existed. The love is intense.
Zoe: My parents divorced when I was young, so being a family is so special to me.
Talk us through the first time you all met…
Sara: This is the first time I’ve met Lisbon and I just regret it didn’t happen sooner.
Zoe: I met Harris when he was three months old with Dr Ranj and I just remember he did a massive poo-nami!
Are you close away from the show?
Zoe: Yeah. Sara is lovely and we get on really well. We both have quite serious personas as doctors, but in real life we’re both a bit goofy. I just wish we lived closer.
Sara: Zoe is my closest friend from the ITV family. I feel so lucky to have her.
There are plenty of mums in the ITV daytime family – who do you connect with and talk to most?
Sara: Alice Beer is great. She’s got grown-up twins so she’s a bit of a sage mum figure and gives brilliant advice.
Zoe: I’m friends with Alison [Hammond] outside of work but I don’t see her often as she’s in Birmingham. I speak to Frankie [Bridge] and Stacey [Solomon] too.
Sara, did you offer Zoe any advice while she was pregnant?
Sara: I don’t tend to give much advice as I never appreciated unsolicited advice when I was pregnant, especially when it came to my birth plan. I’m a bit of a hippy at heart and I wanted to have Harris at home. A lot of medical friends were discouraging of that. They’d spout statistics and it put me in a bit of a negative headspace.
From the advice you welcomed, what piece were you were most grateful for?
Sara: Trust your instincts. Becoming a mum gives you a sixth sense with your child.
Zoe: I never knew you had to pull the frilly bits out of nappies, so that was handy!
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Is there any advice you’d like to share with other new/expectant mothers?
Sara: There’s a lot of stuff out there to buy. If it makes life easier, go for it – but don’t feel pressured. All your child needs is you.
Zoe: Don’t compare yourself with other mothers , or your baby with other babies.
One in 10 women get postnatal depression. What advice do you give?
Zoe: Don’t feel ashamed to open up. It’s more common than you think.
Sara: Seek support. Healthcare professionals and your loved ones are there to help.
Who in your lives do you turn to for support with Harris and Lisbon?
Zoe: We don’t live near any of our family, so we have a nanny come in once a week. My friend Helena looks after Lisbon too.
Sara: My husband is pretty incredible. He’s managed to take on a lot of the household responsibilities, which eases the burden.
You’re both passionate about your work. How are you balancing everything?
Sara: I do two days a week NHS, two days private and one day is either a play date with Harris or TV work.
Zoe: I took the full 12 months of maternity leave but I’ve done a bit of work throughout. I go back properly when Lisbon is one.
Sara, you had a gorgeous ring made to help you feel closer to Harris at work…
Sara: I wanted something physical I could touch to calm my nerves in those first few months when I went back to work and I missed him. This is my little piece of Harris. I can’t wear it on my finger – it’d be a bit savage to do a rectal examination with one of these! – so I put it on a necklace.
Has the way you treat your patients changed since you became parents?
Sara: Oh, yeah. I’m far more understanding when they turn up late!
Zoe: God, yes. My life experiences help me empathise with patients and there’s no life experience like having a baby.
You’re both so busy, how do you make sure you’re taking care of yourselves?
Zoe: I used to say that anyone can find 10 minutes in a day but after having a baby that’s a challenge. I like going to the gym – sometimes I’ll exercise, other times I’ll hit the spa!
Sara: Exercise is so important for me too. Exercise, coffee that’s actually hot and an audiobook. That’s all I need.
What are your hopes for your boys?
Zoe: Just to be safe, happy and healthy.
Sara: The world feels like quite a sad, negative space at the moment, so I want to make his little environment as happy as possible. I want him to know his worth and be the best person he can.
Click here to read our full exclusive interview with Dr Sara and This Morning co-star Dr Zoe.
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