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‘Getting by’: Bartholomew on her marriage

Suddenly, she tells Stellar, “I thought… you know? I’ve been feeling really tired and not great. So, maybe? So I took a pregnancy test and it revealed that I was. It was a bit unplanned, but also great timing.”Now Bartholomew and husband Neil Varcoe will welcome a sibling (they know the sex, but are keeping it a secret) for 20-month-old daughter Molly in the new year. By then, Bartholomew is hopeful that lockdowns will be a thing of the past; for now, however, they very much remain her reality. In fact, after learning she was a close contact of a Covid-positive case at work, Bartholomew had to quarantine for two weeks in her Sydney home. Which meant that her shoot for Stellar – initially planned to take place in a studio – took place via Zoom, with the journalist doing her own hair and make-up in the bathroom and, to create some ambiance, hanging a drop sheet between two doors in Molly’s bedroom as a background. Welcome to 2021, right? “It was chaotic but I don’t mind that at all. It passed the time,” says Bartholomew of the shoot, adding that during quarantine she channelled her inner Play School presenter to ensure Molly remained entertained. “Countless people in this country have dealt with the same situation over the past 18 months. Obviously it’s slightly complicated by having a small human overlord who wants to go to the park and wants to get out and about. But on the flipside, because I’m pregnant, we’re being very cautious about where we’ve gone and what we’ve done anyway. “We don’t even go to the servo to get petrol; we pay at the pump! So aside from being forced to not leave the house to exercise, there is not too much of a difference. And I’m in a very fortunate position that I still have a job. There’s lots to be thankful for.”The 38-year-old says the pregnancy – and the accompanying cravings for spicy food – has been a welcome distraction from the heaviness of the news cycle, all of which she shares with Sunrise viewers each morning. Aside from their own excitement and well-wishes to her personal news, Bartholomew tells Stellar she was blown away by their reaction to a different story she shared: when a camera crew followed and filmed her when she finally got access to the Pfizer vaccine. “Because I had been so cautious, getting the vaccine gave me a sense of freedom. I’d consulted my doctor and felt very confident in my decision,” she explains, adding that she anticipated the story drawing blowback from anti-vaxxers. It did. But what she wasn’t anticipating was the hundreds of other pregnant women who reached out to message her online with thanks that she was open and honest about her desire to be jabbed. “It was both heartening and heartbreaking, because these women were saying how they’d been bullied online to not get the vaccine but were now going to speak to their doctor, which is all I was suggesting. Just consult your health professional,” she says. “The negative remarks didn’t bother me, which is strange for me because I usually take things to heart. Instead, I felt empowered. I think it may be the most important story I’ve done in my 20-year career as a journalist.”As for that career, Bartholomew says that she plans to take six months off once the baby arrives, and is hoping to maintain the same flexibility with work and family life that she has carved out during the pandemic. “Because of the hours I work, and because Covid has cancelled overseas trips, I feel it’s been a really great balance between parenting and work,” she says. “But [parenting] is definitely a mental adjustment. I unashamedly spent two decades working really, really hard. So you don’t want to throw that away, but [you also] have to be happy to take a pause.”At this stage, the family hope to spend some time together at their farmhouse in NSW’s Capertee Valley, as they did after Molly was born. “For the first few months of her life we were there on 100 acres and it was just the three of us, plus the dog, and it was a beautiful period,” she says. “At the time my husband wasn’t working, which carried its own stresses, but it meant that he had this extraordinary amount of time with Molly he never would have had. So the challenge then is how do we replicate that?” Bartholomew wed Varcoe in a stunning ceremony on the farm in 2018. But she jokes their relationship is very different now to how it was back then. “It’s been wonderful to have that common purpose in parenting, but that can also be a double-edged sword because it becomes all-consuming. It sounds depressing, but we are just kind of getting by,” she says. “I’m sure one of these days we will sit down to a romantic meal and light some candles and not fall asleep in our own dinner. But that’s not right now.”Instead, she’s trying to squeeze in as many naps and long baths as she can before learning to renavigate the joyful chaos of a newborn in the house. “Second time round you’re more focused on the logistics, like, ‘Where are we going to put this baby when they arrive? Will the kids share a room?’” she starts. “I’ve been really thinking of the practicalities. But then suddenly you stop and go, ‘You know what? This is an amazing, wonderful bit of news.’”

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