In an exclusive interview with Marie Claire UK, Tanya Burr reveals her pregnancy and why she wants society to change when it comes to keeping the first 12 weeks under wraps
When Tanya Burr walks through the revolving glass doors into Marie Claire’s West London office for her first interview after announcing she’s pregnant on instagram, I’m struck by her sunny confidence. Her golden hair is pulled into a low-rise knot, her denim dungarees hugging her bump are slung over a white vest, and her ears and neck are decorated in gold jewellery.
The famous blogger-turned-actress is buzzing with excitement after confirming she is pregnant with a black and white photograph of her baby bump, complete with boyfriend’s hand cupping it. The photo was taken while in a queue at a beach restaurant in Portugal last month, and Tanya likes it so much that she would like to print and frame it but, as she tells me, the journey has been somewhat challenging: ‘It’s so important we create awareness around the first trimester – it’s not an easy ride.’
‘It’s so important we create awareness around the first trimester – it’s not an easy ride.’
I ask her to run me through her pregnancy experience to date, and she starts with the decision to start trying: ‘I’ve always wanted children but wondered if I would ever feel ready,’ she explains. But there came a time when it was all Tanya and her boyfriend talked about, ‘and then we said “shall we just go for it?”’
‘It all feels so natural with my boyfriend. He’s a very caring, loving person; he’s my absolute best friend. Me and my girlfriends say to look for everyday happiness when it comes to a partner. The world can be difficult so within your home you need a warm, fluffy, safe place. Obviously when there’s passion there’s going to be arguments, so it’s never perfect, but it’s about being content with everyday life.’
Tanya is adamant she doesn’t want her boyfriend named and their lives to be kept private after her past breakup when the press wrote a lot about it, but is happy to discuss her pregnancy with us as she wants to create awareness around difficulties through the first trimester – ‘no woman should feel alone during this time,’ she says. ‘What I’ve been through is tough and universal – and I feel like I’m in a position where I can destabilise the stigma. Who says we’re not allowed to talk about our pregnancy before 12 weeks? It’s not the law, it’s our culture.’
She knew something had changed when during a four hour car journey with her boyfriend she couldn’t stop giggling when she was due to have PMS: ‘if I was PMS-ing around two days before my period I would normally be completely irrational, probably blaming the traffic on my boyfriend but instead I had the giggles the whole time.’ It all made sense when she missed her period and found out she was pregnant. She felt elated. ‘I was on cloud nine, so happy, at peace and still. Our bodies are so clever, the things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore. It’s just not very useful to get things done.’
‘Who says we’re not allowed to talk about our pregnancy before 12 weeks? It’s not the law, it’s our culture.’
After the initial excitement, the early physical symptoms became debilitating. ‘I was in complete shock at what was happening to my body; it’s that feeling when you’re hanging over the loo and about to be sick – but constant. I had it at night too so I wasn’t sleeping.’ She was sick at least five times a day and eventually wasn’t keeping anything down, not even liquid. ‘A bottle of Sprite lasted me a whole week. Then I hated Sprite, so I changed to a can of lemon San Pellegrino that would last two days, then I tried ginger beer.’ Nothing worked, there was no magic cure. ‘I just had to ride it out and sip whatever liquid I could,’ says Tanya. ‘I got weaker and weaker and was bed bound for six weeks.’
Still not able to tell anyone because they thought they had to wait for the 12-week scan, Tanya and her boyfriend also longed for the exciting moment of telling the parents, but she ‘couldn’t even string a sentence together. I felt lonely, helpless and conflicted.’ In the end they cracked and told and told their parents and siblings at seven weeks.
Thankfully, her boyfriend got permission to work from home so was able to care for her. ‘I commend my boyfriend. He has a very busy job. He’s also a worrier and didn’t have anyone to speak to or even ask advice from, it must have been difficult for him too. I obviously think he’s amazing as I’ve chosen to have a baby with him – but we would sit on the bathroom floor with his arms wrapped around me. I remember thinking “What would I do if you get sick.”’
Ironically, shortly after that, he caught Covid. Tanya was lucky enough to escape the virus, although she chose to tell everyone that she had contracted it to deflect from her pregnancy.
Not being well enough to go to the doctors, they had a FaceTime call with her GP who suggested Tanya go on a drip because she hadn’t passed urine for three days. She was prescribed anti-sickness medication, but made the decision not to take it because of possible side effects.
A few weeks later, the ‘morning’ sickness became more manageable. ‘I went from being sick five times a day to once a week but I still felt constantly nauseous. Eating food like plain spaghetti gradually made it better and then we realised I needed to eat all the time. I kept Ritz crackers and Digestive biscuits next to my bed.’
Tanya lost a lot of weight during the sick phase, but then quickly put it back on as soon as she could keep food down. ‘I remember my clothes were beginning not to fit. I had to go to Reformation on Westbourne Grove to get a few dresses for some events but couldn’t get rid of the feeling of being sick. I thought I was going to pass out so I sat on the bench outside and cried on the phone to my sister while eating a packet of Hula Hoops. I saw the weight quickly gain in my face but had to care about our baby and not care about my body for a bit.’
‘I always thought cravings would be so fun, but it’s the feeling like I need this or I’m going to die – but then it doesn’t hit the spot. Chocolate was food aversion – but Snickers bars I thought were amazing, but I’m over them now too. I’m into cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh crunchy radishes, coleslaw and mango.’ She showed me photos of a whole mango she massacred and a French stick with rotisserie chicken, lettuce and mayo that she can’t get enough of. She takes pictures and writes notes about everything so she can look back and remember these times and compares the feelings to the pandemic ‘We all said we’ll never forget that we couldn’t get coffee but it’s so alien to us now. As humans we are so adaptable but sadly we just forget and move on.’
Believing it’s the done thing, Tanya and her boyfriend kept things private for three months. ‘I barely texted anyone back and if I did I just lied to people. I felt really uncomfortable – my family and girlfriends are so close I would never dream of lying to any of them and that was the time I needed support the most.’
‘I barely texted anyone back and if I did I just lied to people. I felt really uncomfortable – my family and girlfriends are so close I would never dream of lying to any of them and that was the time I needed support the most.’
In terms of announcing it to the public, she wanted to keep it between her boyfriend and family for as long as possible. ‘It’s such a precious thing. Because I’m online there’s all kinds of people, often lovely people – and then there’s strange, weird men – that I don’t want to come anywhere near my precious thing inside me. I feel so protective.’
It’s clear that Tanya treasures her online audience because she’s been with them for so long. She’s excited to tell me about a comment on her Instagram post this morning: ‘feels like my best friend is pregnant’. That level of support and love from the people who have messaged me means the world to me. It was important for me to announce it on my terms and not through a newspaper. It’s summer – I can’t hide the bump anymore!’
‘For the majority of women who aren’t in the public eye, I’m not saying that they should tell the world straight after taking the test, what I’m advocating is women doing what feels right for them and not being judged for it. There seems to be so much shame placed on miscarriage.’ The reason why we are supposed to wait three months is because it’s the highest risk of miscarriage in a pregnancy. It is so common that one in three pregnancies miscarry, you are probably more likely to miscarry when in your first trimester then you are to get a cold, so why is there so much shame around it?
‘A friend I saw at a wedding recently said “I would tell all my friends – but I wouldn’t tell work – just because that’s a whole other load of implications – but I would want all my friends around me if I miscarried to cheer me up.” And that’s so true,’ says Tanya. ‘I had to tell my manager that I was in bed with Covid because I had to cancel so much work. But imagine if something bad did happen and I wanted the support of those people and I had to backtrack after all those lies – but if they had been on the journey it would have been so much easier.’
‘Feeling isolated is so needless – it’s something that society expects women to be like these strong robots. That’s what is so outdated about this three month rule.’
She continues: ‘I’m not saying they need to shout it from the rooftops. I would just say that you should be able to tell your friends and family through the three month wait.’ It’s clear that Tanya wants to prove that these conversations need to happen for better maternal mental health.
Tanya has an evolving career working with the likes of Dior and Louis Vuitton, Sky and New Look, she is also a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR, and the founder of makeup brand Authored whilst also being a budding actress. I ask how she thinks motherhood will affect her work: ‘I feel steady in my brand partnerships. I just hope it carries on and it’s ok and motherhood is a part of it. I don’t compare myself to other influencers and I don’t think it’s fair to call myself an influencer when you have amazing women like Polly Sayer – I literally couldn’t live without her recommendations.’ With over 3.6 million followers and a very blue verified tick, there’s no doubt that Tanya will make it into her fans favourite pregnancy instagrams though.
Giving birth is the only thing Tanya is overthinking a bit right now. They’ve thought about baby names but are keeping the baby’s gender a surprise. ‘Generally I’m happy, peaceful and relaxed – but I’ve had a few nightmares about giving birth,’ she says. ‘Everyone’s so opinionated – if one person had a hypnobirth they recommend that, if someone else had an epidural then they tell me to do that. I feel like me and boyfriend don’t know anywhere near enough about babies yet – but we couldn’t love this little thing any more than we do. My dad said “All you have to do is love it.”’