PREGNANCY suits Gemma Atkinson. The 38 year old, who is expecting a baby boy this summer with her partner Gorka Márquez, 32, is glowing.
Even if she is still trying to get her head around the fact that she’s soon going to be part of a family of four.
“It’s lovely to be pregnant,” she explains. “But bizarre to think that I’m going to be a mother of two. If someone had said that to me 10 years ago, I’d have replied: ‘No, I’m going to be on my own with loads of dogs.’”
But as soon as she had Mia, now three, she decided she wanted to have another baby, as Gemma couldn’t be without her own big sister Nina, 45.
“We’ve always said we wanted a sibling for Mia, because Gorka [who Gemma met on Strictly Come Dancing in 2017] has a brother and I’ve got my sister.
“We didn’t want to do it too soon though, because I wanted to give Mia all of my time while she was at home with me. I’m very fortunate that I don’t start work till 2pm [Gemma presents the drivetime show on Hits Radio].
“We said if we can time it so the new baby arrives as she starts school, that would be perfect, though we didn’t know how long it would take.
“With Mia it was really quick, but I’d read that your second can take longer as you’re that little bit older. We’ve been really lucky from me saying to Gorka: ‘Right, I’ll sleep with you now. Go for it!’ to me being pregnant again.”
The pair are thrilled that their Strictly pals Janette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec are also expecting their first child, especially now they live nearby.
“They‘ve moved up north, so we’ll literally be half an hour away, it’s perfect. They FaceTimed to tell us before the announcement. That little baby is going to be so surrounded by positivity and happiness.”
Expecting hasn’t been a walk in the park this time round. Gemma suffered from morning sickness at the start. “I had this weird motion sickness even when I wasn’t in a car,” she explains.
“Then, at about 10 weeks, it disappeared. With Mia, I had no symptoms other than a physical bump! And at weekends, if I didn’t want to do anything, I would just put my feet up all day. This time, I’ve felt the fatigue, because I can’t do that now with a toddler.”
Luckily, she’s had Gorka – who decided to forsake the Strictly tour earlier this year – to help at home. This caused panic among fans of the competition who, not knowing Gemma was pregnant, feared he was set to quit the show.
Gemma previously revealed how much Gorka struggled with going straight back to work when Mia was born in July 2019. This time round, they made a pact to put family first.
She explains: “I was very fortunate that Gorka was off for the whole of January. It was great having him at home on the days where I was super-tired. The Strictly team were fantastic letting him not do the tour, because he didn’t want to be away when I was quite poorly.
“But it was bizarre, because we were reading comments saying that he’d been axed and was leaving the show. I was like: ‘Oh no, people think you’ve been dropped.’ He said: ‘I don’t care.’ He doesn’t bother about anything like that.
“He is doing the Strictly Come Dancing: The Professionals tour in May, then he’s booked off June and July [around when the baby is due] so we can be at home together. Then hopefully he’ll start the show again in August.
“He loves dancing and the whole Strictly family so much, but he’s wary of taking time away from his family. Being together when the baby is born means he can be fully focused on doing the show from August to Christmas.”
Despite her amazing physique, cake is still on the menu for Bury-born Gemma, although she is trying to be restrained when it comes to her cravings.
“At the start, I just wanted bread and butter. It’s more that I feel hungrier rather than craving specific food. I have a nutritionist, who said that at this stage I need to be consuming about 120 more calories a day, which is half an apple with peanut butter.
“That’s nothing. He said: ‘You can eat what you want, but you’re not eating for two.’ At my last scan the baby was only a pound, so that’s not another person.”
When fitness is a big part of your life, it must be bizarre to see your body change, but the former Hollyoaks star is embracing it.
“I’ve carried a lot heavier this time,” she says. “I don’t know if that’s because I wasn’t as active in the beginning or just because it’s a boy. I went a lot softer, a lot quicker.
“My legs have got bigger. My boobs have tripled in size – Gorka’s living his best life with those! He’s loving it. But it happened with Mia as well, so I’m saying: ‘Don’t get used to it, because they’re going!’ During pregnancy, your skin and hair glows, but then that stops when the baby comes.
I embrace the changes, because it’s a sign that my body’s doing what it needs to do. Even with Mia, I wasn’t one of those women going: ‘Oh no, I’m putting weight on.’
“You are growing a human. It is bizarre seeing yourself completely different to what you are used to, but then you see the baby on the scans and you think: ‘Crikey, they’re actually inside my tummy.’
“I’ve got cellulite, too. But once I made the connection that it’s not because I’m lazy or greedy, but because I’ve got triple the amount of oestrogen – the hormone that produces cellulite – you understand it.
“It’s so much more than just feeling s**t about cellulite, after all. Your body is adapting. It’s amazing, really.”
Despite her positive attitude towards her figure, Gemma has had to deal with horrific trolling over her weight gain, with one troll describing her as “tubby”, while another said pregnancy was “no reason to let herself go.”
Rather than be upset by the comments, Gemma called the posters out, saying: “I will always get this stuff – pregnant or not. Embrace the changes. My cellulite on my arse is tenfold at the minute! My boobs are massive and I struggle to put my shoes on.
“But I’m growing and creating life. My son. And for that blessing, I’ll take all of the above and more, including the p***ks on Twitter.”
Gemma rolls her eyes at the mention of the abuse: “It’s always guys who say it and I always think: ‘Would they say that to their mum when they were expecting?’ I get it in some aspects that they’ve gone from seeing me when I was training, but it’s naive they don’t understand why your body is changing.
“People don’t realise the hormone influx with oestrogen goes crazy. But once little man’s out and I’m ready, I can correct that. I don’t really stress about it. I’ve gone the other way if anything.”
She knows, too, that you just can’t win everyone’s approval. “Ultimately, whether you’re carrying a bigger bump or a smaller bump, you’re going to get it, because there’s always going to be someone who’s not happy with how you look. It blows my mind that they care so much about someone else’s body.
“I saw a woman on Instagram who was full-term pregnant, but she looked tiny. She was doing CrossFit and getting all this grief for not looking pregnant.
“I’ve had it with people saying: ‘You’re going to hurt yourself.’ For me, training is mentally great. I love getting moving. I lift a toddler every day, I have to carry my dogs Norman and Ollie upstairs because they can’t get up on their own.
“The key is knowing your body and taking advice. I’ve spoken to my qualified PT and I do what he tells me to do. But also there are days where I don’t want to do any exercise and you shouldn’t have to.
“You shouldn’t be forced to feel guilty for training or not. I’ve gone from exercising five times a week to three. In between, it’s sitting on the couch as, from the summer, it’s going to be chaos. I’m embracing the rest.”
Away from the trolls, Gemma’s focusing on the relief that she’s actually expecting, as for years her daughter has been wrongly announcing she was pregnant.
“Mia is so excited to be a big sister,” she smiles. “She’s been telling people that I’ve had a baby in my tummy for ages. Two years ago, Gorka picked her up from pre-school and the teachers said: ‘Mia told us about Gemma being pregnant.’ He said: ‘What?!’ I had to tell her I wasn’t having a baby!
“But when she saw I was physically growing, we sat her down and said: ‘Now Mummy has got a baby in her tummy and you’re going to be a big sister.’
“She asked if it was a girl and I told her it’s going to be a little boy and she just said: ‘Oh, right.’ But about five minutes later she said: ‘Oh, Mummy, I’m so excited.’ Since then she’s said: ‘I’ll help you bathe him.’
“Sometimes I’m sitting putting my shoes on and she says: ‘Don’t bend, Mummy, I will get them’. She’s like a little mother hen already. My mum said that’s what my sister was like with me, so I’m hoping it’s the same.”
Are they ready for a boy in a girl-dominated household?
“Before we found out the sex, I asked Gorka what he wanted and he said: ‘Either. If it’s a girl, I know what to do, but if it’s a boy, it’s brand-new.’
“We found out really early it was a boy as we had the Harmony blood test to check for any abnormalities at 12 weeks and that reveals the sex. We then had it confirmed later with the scan.
“We’re blessed to have one of each. I can’t teach the baby how to be a man, that’s Gorka’s job, but I can teach him how to respect women. When it comes to things like the birds and the bees chat, that’s up to Gorka.”
And as for whether she would consider more after this arrival? “I think that’s it now, done. Shop’s shut, no more!”
The couple’s next quandary is what to name their son, though they have had some interesting suggestions from their daughter. “Mia’s keen on Barbie,” Gemma laughs. “She also likes Harold.”
Whatever they choose, they’re keen to make sure it encompasses Gorka’s heritage. “We definitely want some kind of Spanish element, but it’s the pronunciation that is really difficult.
“Gorka suggested ‘Tao’, but spelt as Theo, which would get lost in translation. I’d like Thomas, but he’d get ‘Tommy’ and Gorka says ‘Tommy Márquez’ sounds like a gangster.”
While there might be the sound of a baby crying coming Gemma’s way, she won’t be hearing wedding bells any time soon as, despite being engaged, the couple have no plans for the big date.
“We never really had a date. We don’t want a massive wedding. With all Gorka’s family in Spain and mine in the UK, as well as everyone on Strictly, it would be a huge wedding and we don’t want that.
“When we feel like it, we’ll probably just go to a registry office, do it ourselves with close family and then have a massive party afterwards. I think we will have a long engagement.
“It would be lovely for us all to have the same surname, but we feel married anyway, especially having two kids and a house. I don’t think a piece of paper would change that.”
Sounds like Gemma has it all figured out.
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What’s your funniest parenting moment?
When we were out for lunch once, I was changing Mia and she did a poonami. I shouted: “Gorka, there’s s**t up the wall!” It’s fine at home, but not when people are eating in the next room!
What’s been your biggest win?
That Mia’s thriving.
Have you had any notable fails?
I’d spent hours expressing milk when Mia was a baby. When I went to get it from the fridge, I dropped it.
Any top tips?
Lower your expectations. Do what’s best for you and your family and shut out everyone else’s opinion.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before having a baby?
How much you worry. Every single day is a worry and my mum says that never goes away.
Who’s your parenting inspo?
I’ve never heard my sister complain despite having three kids. And Mum let us make mistakes and learn, and she’s always been there when we’ve come back saying: “You were right.”