LYING on the bed in the hospital ultrasound room, Peta Todd steeled herself for bad news. After several months of missed periods, doctors were investigating the possibility of her being in early menopause at the age of 35.
But when she caught sight of the scan image on the screen in January, mum-of-four Peta instantly knew what was staring back at her. Far from being menopausal, she was pregnant with baby number five and almost through the first trimester. Peta could barely believe it.
The news meant the former glamour model and Fabulous columnist, who is married to British cycling champ Mark Cavendish, 37, had been expecting when armed robbers raided their home shortly before Christmas.
The terrifying targeted attack was witnessed by the children, while Peta and Mark – who at the time was recovering from a collapsed lung and two broken ribs after a horror crash – were held at knifepoint. Three men are due to stand trial later this year, having pleaded not guilty to robbery.
Peta tells us that the family’s new arrival, due at the end of the summer, has given them all something to look forward to following the trauma. “As much as it’s been a surprise, it’s also been really nice to have something hopeful and joyful to think about after a really rough couple of months,” she says.
Nevertheless, Peta – who is already mum to Delilah, 10, Frey, six, and four-year-old Casper with husband Mark, and Finnbar, 16, from a previous relationship – says the scan brought on a wave of emotions.
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She says: “No matter how many babies you have, you never get over the magic of hearing the heartbeat for the first time. All of those emotions were mixed with being blindsided and relieved because it ruled out some of the more worrying things they were investigating.”
She adds: “Obviously I’m aware how babies are made, but I hadn’t had a period for ages and we’d been trying to get to the bottom of it. Without sounding like one of those people on American documentaries who don’t realise they’re pregnant for the whole nine months, I had no other tell-tale signs. I’m normally really unwell when pregnant and I’d had none of that.”
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We sat down with Peta to find out more about her pregnancy and how the family are coming to terms with their recent ordeal.
'It’s a madhouse'
Congratulations, Peta! How are you feeling about adding a fifth child to your already busy household?
It’s a madhouse anyway, so hopefully this one will just slot in! And it’s not like I’ll have five under five – they are pretty spaced out.
Finn is very self-sufficient and he’s a huge help with the younger ones, and Delilah is very hands-on. When you’ve got a big family, everyone just has to fit in and work as a unit.
Did you think you were through the early years?
Well, we’d never been 100% about not having any more. I love being a mum and I love how they all are with each other. But I was just about to have all four children in school, and now we’re starting from scratch again!
My best friend was like: “You’ve just sabotaged yourself!” But Casper starting school means I’ll have that little bit of time during the day where it’s just me and the baby. I know this one will be my last, so I’m just going to take it all in and enjoy it.
How come this pregnancy was so much of a surprise?
I’d not had periods for months and was having investigations for various things, including early menopause. I had none of my usual pregnancy symptoms – no sickness, my boobs weren’t sore and I’d actually lost weight, likely down to the stress of Mark having been in intensive care and then the robbery.
Apparently, when there’s trauma, it’s not uncommon for your body to go into protective mode to make sure the pregnancy is OK, which might explain why I had no sickness and it went unnoticed for so long.
How did you break the news to Mark?
He was training in Spain and I never like to hit him with big news when he’s away. I had to wait four or five days, which just about killed me!
I’m never someone who’s going to make a cute announcement video – I’d be more likely to frisbee a positive test across the room, so I said: “I’m about to turn your world upside down,” and straight away he said: “You’re pregnant?” I said: “Yep”, and he said: “I’m never going to be able to retire, am I?!”
Life is very uncertain, but the idea that my kids will always have this little gang is something I find really comforting.
This all came at a really tough time. How are you coping after the robbery?
I don’t think it’s something you ever completely get over, especially because the children were there. That’s what I’ve concentrated on – making sure they’re getting the support they need and coping in the best way they can.
I’m very aware they’re looking to us to guide them through this. It’s not something you ever think about until you’re in it.
Have you had therapy to help?
We’re getting support with the kids and we’ve all worked together on it. It’s been a strange one to navigate, especially with children in different age groups. They all have very different needs and that’s probably been the biggest challenge.
Did you consider moving house?
Yes, those thoughts have come up. But ultimately, my house was broken into because me and Mark live there, and so, what do you do? We could move, but we wouldn’t feel safe.
We’re playing it by ear. Everyone’s worst nightmare came true for us and the only way I can look at it is from the point of view that we’re all OK. It could have been a lot worse.
Has the pregnancy helped?
I think it’s channelled us to look forward not back, like the ultimate fresh start. And I think it’s reminded us how close we are as a family and how important our little unit is. We’ve managed to come through a pretty rubbish time and I’m excited to share that closeness with someone else.
You and Mark have been together for 12 years and married for nine. What makes your partnership work?
We’re very different – I’m laid-back and Mark isn’t – but we balance each other out. I’m fiercely protective of him and I love him. We drive each other mental, just as much as anybody else! And we also spend quite a lot of time apart, which means we make the most of the time we have together. We try to remember there’s a relationship at the heart of everything, one this whole family was founded on.
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There have been times Mark has struggled with mental and physical health [he was diagnosed with depression after battling the Epstein-Barr virus in 2018], which has been tough for us all. But as long as you feel like there’s something you don’t want to give up on, you just keep trying. You keep going.
Finally, what do you love about having a big family?
My two best friends growing up are one of five and one of four, and I remember feeling so at home in their houses. I loved how they always had each other. Life is very uncertain, but the idea that my kids will always have this little gang is something I find really comforting.
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