How this TV star turned her pregnancy notes into a book
IF ONE ever needed insight into the expectations of a pregnant woman, actor-turned-author Kate Ritchie has managed to express those thoughts and make them rhyme to boot.
Ritchie has published her first children's book, I Just Couldn't Wait to Meet You, after she began scribbling notes when she was pregnant with her daughter, Mae, who will turn two next month.
"When I fell pregnant I had so many emotions and unanswered questions and feelings, I really didn't know how to compute them all," Ritchie, 37, said.
She said the notes were a salve for the inner dialogue that was going on during that time.
"There was excitement in there as well," she said.
"It was so overwhelming and as that pregnancy went on those little notes turned into a story or letter to that unborn baby."
The book hit shelves in April this year. Ritchie's simple yet insightful rhymes describe the new emotions of love that many expectant parents feel, and illustrations by Hannah Sommerville bring a whimsical edge to the narrative.
One of the most touching additions to the book are the tributes the author and illustrator give their own children. "For Mae - you make my world wonderful," Ritchie wrote on an early page.
Ritchie said the feedback had been positive. A trawl of the star's Twitter feed showed many families had shared their own photographs of parents corralling their children to sit and read the book. Ritchie said she felt blessed to garner a snapshot of other families' private lives.
"It's so lovely, I think we've always known the importance of reading to your child," she said.
"It's always going on behind closed doors and you're not really privy to that. The pictures are a lovely sign of support. It made it feel real. Not only the images, the messages and comments on my social (media feeds) have been so warm and so supportive."
Although Ritchie has relished seeing her first book in print, she said she would have to continue writing to truly feel she had earned her author status.
"It's been so nice that the book has been received well by book reviewers," she said. "It's a lovely feeling but it represents something more. It proves that I can do other things."
One of the "other things" Ritchie was referring to was the career she carved out as a child star, playing Sally Fletcher on the long-running Aussie soap Home and Away. Her stint on the show lasted 20 years, from 1988-2008, which earned her a place in the Guinness World Records for the longest continuous role in an Australian drama series.
She moved on to work in radio at Nova and an acting role in Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, which was the second series of the crime drama that aired in 2009.
"As the years go on, like any job, the distance between you and that role grows," Ritchie said of her childhood character.
"What will never change is I spent my formative years playing that character… and I do miss that character from Summer Bay because she's an absolute security blanket."
Ritchie reprised the role of Fletcher in 2013 to mark the 25th anniversary of Home and Away before she switched to her current gig with Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold on Nova's Afternoon Drive Show, which boasts 1.48 million listeners a week.
Like many busy working mums, Ritchie keeps up a juggling act of home life, caring for her child and work. She had sandwiched our interview between looking after Mae and her afternoon job on the Drive Show in Sydney.
"The job I have at Nova is the greatest gift at all," Ritchie said.
"I couldn't be more thankful for my job in radio - it allows more of a work-life balance and allows me time with Mae."
She married former NRL player Stuart Webb in 2010 and the couple had their daughter on August 17, 2014. Like many high-profile couples, Ritchie and Webb had a choice to make about how much public exposure they wanted for Mae.
Rare shots of Mae appear on social media and Ritchie has, to date, only participated in one photo shoot with her for The Australian Women's Weekly. She said she could not turn down that job because her mother would have been upset.
"At times it is a difficult choice to continue because we are so incredibly proud of her," Ritchie said.
The star pointed to formative years spent on Home and Away as a reason to protect her daughter from the public sphere.
"She gets more and more amazing every day…as far as my life is concerned not only am I protecting her, I'm protecting a little part of myself," she said.
"I think it's been really important for my sanity to keep some things private."
And to the often-asked question: is she pregnant or does she plan on more children?
"Not for now…that's also a work in progress," she said with a cheeky chuckle.