SHE was famous for her bikini selfies and being linked to celebrities such as David Walliams.
I was single for six years & had a breakdown at 30, says Ashley James
The Made In Chelsea star is now expecting a baby in JanuaryCredit: Instagram
But entering her thirties, she felt like a failure for not achieving what was expected by that age.
“I had a total breakdown,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I didn’t own a house, had no savings, wasn’t married. I wasn’t even in a relationship.”
Ashley was single for six years until last December, when she hooked up with old friend Tom Andrews — and they became official on New Year’s Eve.
Three months in, Ashley got pregnant and the bikini selfies then included an ever-growing baby bump.
Ashley is now loved up with boyfriend TommyCredit: Instagram
Fans have praised her for her honest, unfiltered depiction of pregnancy.
With a baby boy due on January 3, Ashley, 33, says: “I think 2020 has proven a lot can change in a year.
“No matter where we are in life, so much can change so quickly.
“So it’s about remembering to appreciate all the good moments and know that the bad ones will pass.
“This will be our first Christmas together and Tommy and I will celebrate our first anniversary on New Year’s Eve.
Ashley is a DJ and hopes to continue in motherhoodCredit: Instagram
“It would be amazing if the baby arrived then. It would be a double reason to celebrate.”
Ashley got together with Tom on a dating site but they had met each other ten years earlier while on graduate schemes at fashion firm Abercrombie & Fitch.
She says: “We’d bump into each other through the years but we were both always in relationships with other people and it just wasn’t in our minds.”
Their first date was on December 1, becoming “official” 30 days later, and found out they were expecting their a baby a few months later.
Ashley says: “Our relationship has been referred to as a whirlwind.
“But to me, whirlwind suggests chaos and drama, and this has felt like the most calm, rational relationship ever.
“Neither of us have lost who we are, or played games.
“Who knows if Covid or the lockdown sped things up. We’ll never know. But as soon as we found out about the baby, it just felt right.
Until last December, Ashley James had been single for six yearsCredit: Instagram
“I really believe in fate and the timings were just perfect.
“I’m so excited to be a mum and Tommy will be an amazing dad.”
Despite being a model and influencer, Ashley is known for breaking the mould — she has not retouched photos since 2015, and speaks openly about ageing and weight gain.
She has documented her pregnancy with the same candid approach, being frank about everything from hormones to stretch marks, which she calls “gifts from Mother Nature”.
In September she wrote how pregnancy had her “emotions all over the place” and that she cried at everything from TV adverts to the news and her nipples hurting.
While the response to her posts has been overwhelmingly positive, she has been frustrated by the unsolicited advice women get.
Ashley and Tommy will be excitedly celebrating Christmas while waiting for the babyCredit: Instagram
She says: “I call them the ‘just you wait’ brigade, the people who can’t wait to offer you advice you haven’t asked for.
“There’s this negative idea that when you have a baby you give up your life. Who says I have to give up being me? Funnily enough, that was one of the biggest things I had to get over when I found out I was pregnant.
“I remember saying to Tommy, ‘But I’m not ready to give up being me’. He was the one who said, ‘You don’t have to’.
“I can’t wait to get back to DJing. I hope I can take the baby along in a carrier with little headphones on.”
Ashley says that unwanted advice leaves mums-to-be feeling they are not trusted to make decisions.
Ashley says she has been given plenty of unwanted advice while pregnantCredit: Instagram
She adds: “There’s something very misogynistic about it.
“Tommy doesn’t have people offering him advice.
“Before you are pregnant, you’re trusted as an adult to make decisions for yourself.
“As soon as you are pregnant, it becomes an open invite for everybody, whether they know you or not, to give you their opinions.”
When Ashley has raised the issue on social media, other pregnant women have agreed and thanked her for speaking out.
Ashley says: “Health professionals say that unsolicited advice causes stress for pregnant women because it makes them worry about things that they may never have to worry about.
“Making mistakes is how we learn.
Ashley’s parents live in Northumberland so haven’t been able to see her throughout the pandemicCredit: Instagram
“The most empowering thing we can do is to let pregnant women know that we’re there for them if they need us.”
As with many others, being pregnant during a pandemic has posed challenges for Ashley.
Her parents live in Northumberland and she was last able to visit them back in February, so they have not seen her during her pregnancy at all.
She says: “It’s really sad, but we’re so lucky we have Whatsapp, FaceTime and Zoom.
“We have big family calls when we wouldn’t have done that before.
“My gran even knows how to use Zoom.
“If these had been usual times, we might have taken each other for granted.”
But lockdown has also brought unexpected benefits.
She says: “If things were normal, I would have been going to lots of DJ events, which I love and I miss.
“But because they were cancelled, I’ve been able to listen to my body more and go to bed earlier than I would have been.
“It will be hard after the baby is born because I want my family to meet him and we don’t know when that will be.
Ashley is grateful to be able to have Tommy by her side while she gives birthCredit: Instagram
“But there’s no point worrying about what we can’t control.
“I just always try to look at the positives and think it will be a great time for Tommy and I to bond with the baby.”
Ashley is grateful too that the hospital she is giving birth at allows partners to be there during labour.
She says: “It’s cruel to expect anyone to go through that experience by themselves.
“The same goes for scans. You shouldn’t have to do that alone — not all scans are positive.
The DJ says that the pandemic has meant she has been able to listen to her body moreCredit: Getty Images
“I feel like if men gave birth, the rules would be different.”
And while they wait for their little boy to arrive early next month, Ashley and Tommy will be excitedly celebrating Christmas.
She adds: “It’s actually our first Christmas together as a couple. The first and last with just the two of us.”
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