Greg James has been brightening up our days and keeping his listeners smiling on BBC Radio 1’s Breakfast Show throughout lockdown.
But, behind closed doors, he and his wife Bella Mackie have been dealing with fertility struggles.
Writer Bella, 36 – who married the presenter in 2018 – has opened up on a tragic miscarriage she suffered. And, as someone who has suffered from anxiety and OCD since her 20s, she confessed it really took a toll on her mental health.
As a result, Bella now feels ‘terrified’ to become pregnant again, and is worried about risking her mental well-being.
In a personal essay for The Times, Bella wrote, ‘It was a surprise and only lasted for about three weeks; it could barely be called a miscarriage. But, even in that brief window, my mental health plummeted dramatically.’
After that traumatic experience, Bella isn’t sure if she ever wants children now, as throughout her three-week pregnancy, she says she was having ‘constant intrusive thoughts’ and her OCD ‘roared back’ to the point that she couldn’t stop crying.
The start of the anxiety
Bella – who has been on and off antidepressants for years – has previously said she was ‘anxious from my earliest memory.’ She recalled sitting in her bedroom in tears for two hours while her parents were out, ‘catastrophising on a huge scale’, when she was growing up.
Things got worse when her first marriage broke down in her 20s. She said, ‘My husband left after nine months and at that point I thought, “Not only am I anxious and a mess, but now I have to explain that my marriage has broken down in less than a year.”’
Bella credits therapy and running for helping her with her mental health, as well as the support she gets from Greg.
Greg has previously said he was never ‘afraid of Bella’s anxiety’, adding, ‘I love her, and her anxiety is a huge part of her. I’ve read a lot and listened a lot and learnt the right questions to ask – when to say, “We need to get out of the house,” when to hug her and when to p**s off.’
He added, ‘Medication has really helped her, and I think it’s important to destigmatise that.’
An uncertain future
Because of the intensity and speed of her deterioration around the pregnancy and miscarriage, Bella said, ‘I grew up assuming I’d have children, but maybe not having them is a valid option now my mental health is on such an even keel. I’d be worried my OCD would come back, and I’m not sure I want to put myself in that situation when I don’t have the yearning.’
On the other hand, Bella feels that, at her age, ‘time is running out’ if she changes her mind. She admits she often feels selfish for denying Greg the opportunity to become a father.
She said, ‘I lie next to my sleeping husband and wonder if I’m doing him out of fatherhood. He is his usual supportive self, letting me lead the way on a decision.
‘I’m sure my obvious fear plays a part in him not weighing in too decisively, but that doesn’t seem fair.’
However, she’s not made a concrete decision yet. She explained, ‘I will keep mulling it over and think about what positive safeguards I can put in place if I do decide to have a baby.’