EastEnders star Brooke Kinsella introduces baby daughter as she reveals sadness that late brother Ben can’t meet her

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It’s not been easy for first-time mums giving birth in the middle of a pandemic, but campaigner Brooke Kinsella has taken it all in her stride. In fact, she’s beaming with happiness when we sit down to chat over a mid-morning Zoom call.

Brooke welcomed her daughter Elsie in September, and the former EastEnders star, 36, has taken to motherhood like a duck to water.

While Elsie spends the interview nestled in her cot, we get the lowdown from Brooke on how she’s finding being a mum, how her husband Simon Boardley, 42, is a natural at fatherhood, and the joy Elsie has brought them since her arrival.

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Sadly though, it’s a bittersweet experience for Brooke since her brother Ben isn’t around to share in their delight.

Ben, who was best friends with Birds Of A Feather star Linda Robson’s son Louis, was tragically stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack back in 2008 in London, when he was just 16 years old. That night, Brooke’s life was set on a trajectory she never expected it to take.

She founded the Ben Kinsella Trust and began pouring her time and energy into anti-knife crime campaigning, earning herself an MBE for her work in the field.

During our heartbreakingly honest conversation, she opens up about what a wonderful uncle Ben would have been, as well as the close bond she’s formed with Linda, who she describes as “a second mum”.

And despite the sadness Brooke carries following her brother’s death, her new bundle of joy has given her the biggest reason to smile.

Here, Brooke, who describes herself as a “crazily organised and highly emotional” person, tells us why she’s taking everything in this new chapter of her life in her stride and how she feels Ben might have had something to do with her pregnancy…

Congratulations, Brooke! How does it feel diving into the new world of motherhood?

It’s insane! I love to prepare, but there really is no preparation you can do for becoming a parent. The lack of sleep is the main challenge. I’m used to getting 10 hours a night, so I’ve gone from that to around five hours if I’m lucky. In general though she’s a good baby. I don’t want to send her back just yet!

Do you feel like you’ve taken to it well?

It’s harder than I ever thought in some ways and then easier than I ever thought in others. So in some cases I’m surprising myself and the rest of the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I am quite critical of myself though and I’m definitely a perfectionist.

Were you and Simon trying for a baby?

Yes, for about two years. We got married in December 2017 and we started trying pretty much straight away. I’m a big believer in fairy-tale movies, so I threw the contraception in the bin the day after we tied the knot. It took us a little while, but we got there in the end.

How did you feel when you got that positive result?

I was at my mum’s house when we found out and the most incredible thing happened. All pregnancy tests have codes on them and when I opened my one I saw that the first three letters of the code were BEN. I got complete goosebumps all over and had this huge smile on my face.

It gave me such a good feeling about it all. Usually you have to wait a couple of minutes for the result, but in this instance it went positive straight away. I just remember saying, “Thank you, Ben.” I’ve still got the test now and I’ll treasure it forever.

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It must be hard not having Ben here to share these memories…

It’s a double-edged sword. Being Elsie’s mum is everything I’ve ever wanted, but on the other hand I can’t help but think about everyone who isn’t here to meet her.

For me, the main person missing out is Ben. Obviously I love Elsie more than anything and having loved Ben so much as well it’s heartbreaking to know the two of them will never get the chance to meet.

Do you think having Elsie reopened any of those wounds?

I try not to go there, but what’s really hit me now that I’m a parent is what my mum and dad went through losing a child. I lost my brother and my best friend that night.

He was 16 and I was 25, but we were so close and he’d always sneak into my room in the middle of the night and we’d watch Friends and read Harry Potter together and silly little things.

But losing a child… I never knew what that pain was and now the thought of it sometimes creeps up on me and I need to put a block on it.

I’m only six weeks in so I can’t fall apart just yet, but I’ve had my moments. My mum and dad have always been my heroes, but even more so now.

Does Elsie remind you of Ben at all?

Definitely! When Elsie came out in the first hour I was like, “Oh my God she looks like Henry!” He’s one of my nephews who really looks like Ben.

In terms of temperament, the doctors at my scans would always say that it’s a really chilled, content baby. That was Ben. So laid-back, always happy and always with a smile on his face.

I’m a big believer that the ones we lose stick around in certain ways and I’m sure that as she gets bigger more of that will come out.

How will you talk to her about him?

As a family we don’t shy away from talking about Ben. It’s definitely painful. They say that time is a healer, but it’s not really… you just learn to live with it. But we try to focus on all the good things about him and the funny stories.

It’s tricky talking to little ones about someone who isn’t here because you need to be able to explain why. It’s a tricky conversation to navigate, but as soon as she’s able to hear about these things I will forever be telling Elsie about her Uncle Ben and how wonderful he was.

What was the hardest part about being pregnant in lockdown?

I was on my own for every single appointment having to do what is one of the most overwhelmingly tough things you’ll ever do as a woman alone. That was really hard.

Anyone who’s been for a scan knows it’s a stressful 45 minutes of lying there going, “Please God, please God – let it be alright,” and to not have someone to hold your hand.

It’s awful for women, but I actually feel more sorry for the partners. They’re stuck outside the hospital and miss out on all those things such as hearing the heartbeat and seeing the baby wriggle around on the monitor.

You can bring out a picture, but nothing beats seeing it there in front of you. We didn’t even find out the gender because we wanted it to be a surprise we both shared.

Elsie was born a few weeks early. What was that like?

My birthing plan went out the window! I spent the whole of my pregnancy looking into hypnobirthing.

I even made my poor husband do a weekend-long hypnobirthing course. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was all
a bit of a crazy whirlwind. I was quite poorly, which meant they needed to get her out then and there, so it was completely the opposite to what I’d planned. She got here safely though, that’s the main thing.

Have you found it hard as someone who’s used to working so much?

I’ve gone from working full time to spending most days in my pyjamas. It’s adapting to that different life I’ve found the hardest. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s a big change that takes some getting used to.

Have any of your old EastEnders cast mates been in touch?

Absolutely! Louisa Lytton [who plays Ruby Allen] is one of my best friends and she FaceTimes Elsie every couple of days. She’s adamant that Elsie knows her Auntie Louisa. She’s already got her the most beautiful clothes.

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What about Linda Robson?

Of course. She’s like my second mum. I love her dearly. Her son Louis was there the night Ben was stabbed and he’s just the most wonderful young man. They’re very close family friends and can’t wait to meet Elsie.

How is Simon coping with it all?

He’s surpassed my expectations. He jumped straight in as soon as she was here and has been absolutely brilliant. I hate to admit it, but Simon’s doing more than his fair share.

Sounds like he’s been amazing…

He’s wonderful. I’m so lucky. I get a bit emotional thinking about it. He just loves being a dad and that’s what’s really important. There’s nothing better than watching your partner with a baby. My heart and my belly goes over every time I see him with her and I love him more than ever.

Are you thinking of having any more kids?

Yeah, definitely. I come from a really big family and I’m so close to my siblings. Having someone to go through life with is really important and I’d love to give Elsie that. There’s plenty of room in our home for another little one.

We’re not getting any younger, so obviously we need to think about these things, but I’m not in a rush. I want to enjoy Elsie as a first-time mum and give her all the love and support that she needs. We’ll leave it up to the universe and see what happens.

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