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EXCLUSIVE: Sunrise’s Edwina Bartholomew on self-isolating with a newborn and wanting her daughter to grow into a “kick-arse female”

The arrival of her daughter Molly has helped Edwina Bartholomew find some much-needed perspective. She invites Tiffany Dunk to stay at the country property where her she and her new family have created a sanctuary from a world in turmoil.
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As our car bumps along the winding drive towards Warramba, a sandstone country cottage in the Greater Blue Mountains region, a jean-clad woman pushing a wheelbarrow comes into view, her brow shining with perspiration.

Raising her arm in acknowledgment, she gestures us to park next to the sheds, before hurrying up to welcome The Australian Women’s Weekly to her home.

“We’ve got enough wine and toilet paper if anyone wants to stay for a while,” she laughs, swatting away flies and offering to open a bottle in honour of our arrival.

It’s an unexpected first meeting with a woman we’re more used to seeing in a full face of make-up and decked out in designer duds.

But for Sunrise star Edwina Bartholomew, this is the new normal and one she’s relished since welcoming her first child, Molly, three months ago.

Along with her husband Neil Varcoe, 38, and brand new baby, Edwina, 36, has been hunkered down in recent days at their family farm in the Greater Blue Mountains region. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Since making her grand entrance just a few days before Christmas, Molly has born witness to some of the most extraordinary events to grip the world in recent history.

Edwinas husband Neil Varcoe, with Molly, Edwina and their faithful pup outside their country home.

(Credit: Photography by Alana Landsberry. Styling by Jamela Duncan.)

From the horrific summer bushfires, which almost took the property we stand on today, to the COVID19 pandemic which, as we arrive, has yet to escalate to self-isolation, it’s been a time of stress and panic for us all.

But amongst the chaos Edwina and Neil have found comfort in Molly, in their farm, in their country community and in each other.

“It’s been such a strange summer to become a new parent,” Edwina reflects now, picking up Molly for a cuddle.

“But I’ve found it really comforting that, when the world is chaotic outside, the day to day of being a mum doesn’t change.

“No matter who you are or where you live or what you do for a living, the experience of loving a baby is universal. We are changing nappies, worrying about sleep, cleaning up baby dribble. It’s the same for everyone.”

The farm was almost taken by the 2019-2020 summer bushfires, but the family have found comfort this their local country community.

(Credit: Photography by Alana Landsberry. Styling by Jamela Duncan.)

“There are days when it’s tough or it’s isolating and you’re not quite sure what you’re doing – and I’m sure that will continue for many years to come,” she says.

“Certainly I found the first few weeks completely intense and I was underprepared for it. I found the whole thing very overwhelming. But then… I just feel like I sorted it out a bit.”

“And you have this innate sense that what you’re doing must be right because she’s happy, she’s healthy and she’s thriving. And that’s a nice sense of confidence to have.”

Starting a family was always on the cards for the pair but, says Edwina, she was nervous that, at 35, she wouldn’t fall pregnant easily.”

To her relief, not only was Molly conceived without a hitch, the pregnancy itself was “brilliant”, apart from one surprising side effect: the knock to her body confidence.

WATCH BELOW: Edwina announces her pregnancy live on Channel 7’s Sunrise. Story continues after video.

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Edwina’s bump started to show early, which led to a frenzy of tabloid speculation about the pregnancy; a nightmare for any 35-year-old mother-to-be wanting to wait for the 12-week mark to announce their coming arrival.

Add in the pressure she was putting on herself to fit the glamourous TV mould and she felt increasingly uncomfortable over the changes pregnancy was making.

“I struggled with the way my body changed and with putting on weight in such a public way,” she says candidly.

“I’ve never been a small size, and whereas other women tend to pop out the front, I felt like I popped out everywhere.

“So I’d be lying to say I didn’t feel kind of vulnerable at times because of that. I think I just felt insecure because I guess everyone on TV is supposed to look a certain way and I felt like my body was changing.”

“Even though it was a wonderful thing, I found it hard to squeeze into tiny outfits and even tinier shoes.”

It wasn’t the first time she’d felt a lack of confidence over her natural curves but, she admits, it hit harder than she anticipated.

Today there’s a new pressure added – the pressure to lose the pregnancy weight ahead of her return to work later this year.

It would induce anxiety in anyone, not least someone whose every lump and bump is endlessly dissected by the viewing public.

But Molly is playing a vital part in keeping her calm. Now, Edwina says, she is simply concerned with eating well and looking after herself because, as a breastfeeding mum, “I’m really conscious that what I’m eating, she’s eating too.”

Edwina wants to make sure she imbues in her daughter healthy values of self-respect.

(Credit: Photography by Alana Landsberry. Styling by Jamela Duncan.)

Not only that, she’s wanting to make sure her daughter picks up healthy values – and that includes a healthy respect for herself and the wonderful things her body is capable of.

The other day, Edwina shares, she was critically analysing her post-baby body in the mirror when she caught Molly, wide-eyed and happily gurgling, looking up at her.

“She is too young to appreciate what she is looking at but it made me realise I have to be so careful,” Edwina reminds herself.

“Daughters so often emulate their mother’s body image and behaviour. I want her to grow into a confident, kick-arse female and that process starts with me.”

To read the rest of our article with Edwina, buy the May issue of The Australian’s Women’s Weekly, on sale now.

The Australian Women’s Weekly May 2020 issue.

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