Saturday, December 09, 2006

Article: "Interview: Keeley Hawes - I went to hospital with a Filet-o-Fish and came out with a baby boy!"

It's not often that a woman who's just had a baby admits that she mistook her labour pains for hunger pangs, but that's exactly what happened to Keeley Hawes.

When things started stirring down below, as it were, instead of heading for the hospital - where, ironically, she'd just been for a check up - Keeley asked her fiance to take her straight to McDonald's. But within minutes she was en route to maternity - still clutching her meal.

"I went to hospital with a Filet-o-Fish and came out with a baby boy," she jokes.

"He was two weeks early. Everyone had said to me, 'Oh, first baby? Bound to be late, they always are'.

"Actually, I had been for a routine check only an hour before. I was sitting waiting when a midwife came up to me and said, 'Excuse me, but I think you might be in labour. I have been doing this for a long time and you just have that look about you.' I was so surprised I just went, 'Ha ha, me? In labour now? I feel fine'. A doctor examined me and said I was OK to go home. So off I went, but I felt ravenous so I got Spencer to drive me to McDonald's. I got my food, but he ended up whizzing me back to hospital."

After an enviable six-hour labour Myles - a bouncing nine-pounder - appeared to the joy of his first-time parents.

That was five months ago and as Keeley talks about his impromptu arrival, his piercing cries frequently emanate from a back room where he is being cuddled by a doting dad at the couple's smart new home in Esher, Surrey.

Keeley, 25 next month, has that distracted air of a new mother who can't believe her luck, but doesn't quite know what she's doing... yet. She and Spencer, 28 - a designer in animation - moved into the house just a month before Myles made his surprise appearance.

"I know moving house and doing the decorating and all that stuff when you are heavily pregnant doesn't sound like great planning. It was actually planned much better than that, but we had the whole house-buying chain nightmare and had to wait longer than expected to move in.

"And I certainly didn't expect to be coming out with a baby so early. It was all such a shock."

Keeley, who got her TV big break at 17 in Dennis Potter's Karaoke, was back at work eight weeks after giving birth and next month will be seen in her first comedy, Channel 5's feature-length Hotel, which has been billed as "Die Hard meets Crossroads". So far becoming a mother has been "absolutely nothing" like she expected. But then again, neither was the birth. She cringes when she thinks of her on- screen portrayal of childbirth in the Beggar Bride.

"When I think of it now!" she squirms. "My God, I was so awful, you just don't have a clue when you haven't gone through it.

"I remember sitting down with the producer and watching this video so I could see what it was like before filming. I didn't watch any videos before having Myles. I read a couple of books, but nothing can really prepare you. A few hours after the birth I was sitting up in bed and decided to change his nappy. I had the curtains drawn around the bed and ended up covered in the contents of his nappy. I was up to my elbows in it. I was praying no one would open the curtains. I thought if they see this they won't let me take him home. They'll think there's just no way this woman is fit to look after a baby!"

Keeley, who has also starred in Blonde Bombshell, the Diana Dors story and Wives And Daughters, is the youngest of four children from the close- knit family of a London taxi driver (her two elder brothers are also cabbies).

She admits that part of the reason she was so unprepared for the birth was that she got so fed up of all the horror stories that she banned family and friends from telling her any more.

"Everyone just kept telling me how awful it was. People would tell me how long they were in labour and it just seemed to get longer and longer. Even my sister Jan said giving birth was the worst thing that had ever happened to her. No one tells you anything positive so I said I didn't want to hear any more."

Keeley had Myles at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, West London. "It is the hospital where I was born and they are renowned for their baby expertise. I had loads of drugs while I was in labour - anything and everything. I was such a typical actress!" she says, with an infectious chuckle. "There was this woman down the hall from me and it sounded like she was being murdered and chopped up into little pieces. I asked a doctor what was going on and they said, 'Oh, she's opted for a natural birth with no pain relief.' No way was that for me. I mean, you wouldn't have your appendix out with no anaesthetic would you?" Spencer was at the birth and because he works from home for the Cartoon Network, has ended up as primary child-carer when Keeley is working.

Before becoming pregnant, Keeley had accepted the role of feisty receptionist Tricia in Hotel.

It also stars Lee Majors as the US President, Paul McGann as Tricia's fiance, Peter Capaldi as her would-be seducer, and Art Malik and Lysette Anthony as terrorists.

(From the Sunday Mirror, January 21, 2001, by Annie Leask.)

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