By Casey Neill
Ash Pollard was “in a dark hole” during her early days of motherhood.
“I felt like I just lost myself totally,” she said.
“I was chasing my tail for sleep. I was chasing my tail to find myself.”
Postnatal anxiety enveloped the usually bold and vivacious TV and radio personality.
“When you’re a highly functioning type-A personality, to then be doing the same thing every day is hard,” Ash said.
“I wouldn’t ask for help because I didn’t want to give Clementine to anyone.
“This was in the height of Covid. Everything is just heightened.
“So I was extremely paranoid, extremely tired, extremely unsupported with no daily help around and (partner) Pete (Ferne) at work.
“I was miserable.”
The mum of two and My Kitchen Rules alumnus has been candid about her struggles on social media, earning praise from other mums.
“When Clementine was four months old I fell pregnant again,” she told Kids Today.
“I was not in a good place at that point.
“I was on medication.
“Coming out of the newborn stage, you’re absolutely beside yourself with sleep deprivation.
“I was in a dark hole.”
After Claudette arrived, Ash “went back into a dark spot”.
“I felt extremely unsupported and extremely misunderstood by those around me,” she said.
“I nearly had postnatal psychosis.
“The best thing I did was outsource.
“I put an ad up for a mother’s helper to come and just help me clean up around the house, look after Claudette for two hours of a morning, two mornings a week so that I could go to the gym.
“I hate exercise but I had to force myself to do it because I knew it would be better for me.”
Ash acknowledged she was fortunate to have the means to engage the help she did, but urged other mums in need to explore volunteer services and Medicare-funded aid.
“There are options for people who don’t have the finances to actually get that support,” she said.
“There are beautiful people in the community that offer their help on a voluntary basis.
“You just have to ask your maternal health nurse.”
Claudette was 15 months old when we spoke, and Clementine was two and a half.
“I’m finally feeling a bit better,” Ash said.
“I’ve taken up cardio tennis.
“I hate exercise and I’ve tried everything.
“This is the only thing that makes me genuinely happy and fulfilled.
“You run around a court and play games with other adults.
“Through that I remembered that I was not too bad at tennis, so I’ve gone back to tennis lessons.
“I’m a reserve for a comp team.
“I’m feeling a bit more myself now – my new self.”
Ash had always wanted to become a mum.
“It’s funny because I was extremely maternal in my twenties,” she said.
“When I turned 30 something happened and I kind of lost interest a little bit.
“Maybe my career started ramping up and I started to get a taste for what I loved doing.
“I found my groove in work.
“Things in the industry started ramping up for me and I absolutely loved it.
“Prior to that I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing.”
She was an events manager before winning fans on My Kitchen Rules in 2015.
“It didn’t bring me the same kind of happiness and fulfillment that working in entertainment did,” she said.
“I forgot about being a mum and I just really honed my focus on work.
“Things were happening in leaps and bounds.
“Things were great for me and I was loving life.”
She had her own cooking show on Channel 10, appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and moved interstate for a radio gig.
“Around the exact same time I was offered a job on radio, I met Pete,” she said.
“Everything in my world just felt right.
“Off I went to New South Wales – Pete didn’t come but he was happy to embark on a long-distance relationship with me.”
Ash fell pregnant during the Covid lockdowns.
“We weren’t even trying,” she said.
“It needed to be a surprise for us because we were both so obsessed with our careers that we weren’t even thinking about kids.
“Both of my children were surprises. Neither were planned.”
Ash said work was picking up again and influencing was her main gig these days.
“I’m not a radio host anymore and I haven’t done a TV show for a few years,” she said.
“I use my platform on social media to my benefit and others’ benefit.”
Clem and Claude do join Ash in some promotional videos – “They get a cut – it goes into their bank account.” – and content for fun, like Cooking with Clementine.
“I started when she was so young. She was maybe nine months old,” Ash said.
“She’s always been very intrigued.
“She’s pretty calm so she’ll sit there and watch.
“I couldn’t do it with Claude.
“Clementine listens. She’s extremely measured, very risk-averse.
“She’s not always cooking. She’s not in the kitchen every day.
“I think I have involved her by speaking to her about food and allowing her to watch me and get involved now and then.
“I did introduce her to lots of foods frequently when she was younger
“If she doesn’t like a food, I’ll still serve it to her. Exposure is very important.
“I still to this day don’t like broccoli. I remember being forced to eat it.
“To this day if it’s offered to me I will still leave it on my plate.”
Lately she’s turned to breakfast smoothies to give the girls some extra nutrients.
“I make a green risotto sometimes,” she said.
“I cook some broccoli and kale in the stock that you mix into the rice, whiz it in a blender and ladle it into the rice.
“You’ve got to find ways that suit you and your lifestyle.”
Cooking was once her escape and passion but Ash said it had become a chore.
“It’s so sad to admit that because I adored it,” she said.
“I adored entertaining people, cooking beautiful meals that took an entire day to prepare.”
But she does see a day when the joy will return.
“When the kids exit the toddler stage, they can finally eat whatever we eat,” she said.
The family will be moving into their dream home before Christmas, with extensive renovations currently underway.
“I’m so lucky that Pete’s a builder. It would have been a disaster without him,” Ash said.
“It’s not your typical beige and white kind of scenario.
“It’s going to be an adventure when you walk in the front door of our house.
“Clementine likes to go to the building site to see the builders.
“She doesn’t quite like the noises that some of the machinery makes.”
Ash is content with her family of four but doesn’t rule out adding another child to the mix.
“I don’t like to say no because if we were to accidentally have another surprise we’d just roll with it,” she said.
But family-of-four holiday packages are so convenient…
“And I have no interest in buying a people mover thanks,” she laughed.