Exclusive interview with Canadian television presenter
What is the full name and ages of your children?
Beckett David Nathaniel (10), Zoë Frances Noriko (9) and Poppy Estelle Caton (7)
Could you describe yourself in one sentence?
I’m a happy mom who loves a good laugh.
What was your life like before motherhood?
I didn’t become a mother until I was in my late thirties, so I had a lot of years to concentrate on my career, friendships and self-care. I always knew I would be a mother, I wasn’t worried I was waiting too long or not meeting the right person to spend my life with. I knew in my heart things would work out and they did, my family is my everything.
How would you describe your son Beckett?
Beckett is the light of our lives, his charisma is infectious and everyone who meets him falls instantly in love.
What were your main fears and concerns when you first received news about Beckett’s diagnosis?
I was terrified. We didn’t know Beckett had Down syndrome until after he was born. When I saw Beckett, I knew he had Down syndrome but no one in the delivery room said anything. Not a word. Later that night my doctor told me her thoughts. We were sad but also embarrassed to feel sad about our baby….we were scared because we didn’t know anything about Down syndrome.
I started reading and researching Down syndrome, we became experts – we knew we were the captains of Team Beckett. We did cry but it was short-lived, we fell deeper in love with Beckett every second. When I look back on that time I wish I had never cried but I know my tears were coming from a place of fear.
What has been the biggest learning curve?
Processing how cruel some people can be, I can handle someone saying something rude or mean about me (unfortunately it comes with being on television) but when Beckett was born I became super aware of how uncomfortable some people are around others with a disability. Some people just don’t have empathy and compassion, people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world and it’s group any of us can join at any time. Beckett has taught me how to be an advocate, my life’s purpose became crystal clear when that sweet boy was born. I’m far more resilient now too, becoming a mother will do that!
How has your career focus changed?
I’m very fortunate, I have worked hard and walked through every door that opened for me. Over the years I have been given some really amazing opportunities. I started in media 25 years ago, my first job was in radio – I was young and thrilled to have my dream job right out of school. I now have an incredible job and a somewhat regular schedule. At first I was worried about missing dinner with the kids, I work until 7pm but I have learned to embrace things like breakfast, field trips and bedtime stories.
How has Beckett enriched your life?
My life really started when Beckett was born. Watching Zoë and Poppy with Beckett has been so beautiful, they are three peas in a pod. So much love and patience, our home is filled with laughter – Beckett has shown us how to enjoy every moment. He is a gift, not only to our family but to everyone he meets. My husband and I are better people for having Beckett as our son and our marriage is solid, I know our girls will be better people for knowing and loving their brother.
In the last ten years, I have met so many people who have a sibling or child with Down syndrome, they are all amazing – we are friends – we may not know each other personally but we know we can count on each other.
Did you struggle with postpartum depression at all?
I got pregnant with Zoë when Beckett was five months old and my feelings around my second pregnancy were filled with worry and anxiety. It was difficult, I wanted to hide which isn’t possible when you are on TV everyday. I dyed my hair dark so I wasn’t noticed when I went out, it was tough. I started therapy a few months before Zoë was born and I have been going every week since, that weekly appointment is vital to my mental wellness. Women carry a lot of responsibility and expel an enormous amount of energy, I have learned it is okay to ask for help and that I’m not alone. In this world of social media perfection it’s important to recognize no one is perfect, life is messy and complicated and that’s what makes us interesting and strong.
You were diagnosed with a rare kind of tumour called a Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour – can you tell me how this has impacted your life?
It forever changed my life, I have learned so many lessons. Leading up to my diagnosis I knew something was wrong, for months my intuition was sounding the alarm but every time I brought it up I was told I had gas or I was tired because I had kids and worked full-time. I was bleeding internally, it was a slow bleed until the day something burst and I starting losing blood fast. I was rushed to Emergency and given a blood transfusion, urgent surgery removed a 10cm tumour. GIST is rare, 15 cases per million are diagnosed and it mostly affects senior citizens. Like I did with Down syndrome, I became an expert on GIST – I was also fortunate to have had great care and access to life saving medication. After three years of a chemo drug I now go for scans annually for the rest of my life.
I was diagnosed in 2012, with time things get easier but the worry of recurrence is always there. I’d be lying if I said I never think about it, I do but now I’m much better at managing my anxiety. Through Beckett I learned how to be an advocate and it really helped when I had to advocate for my own health. I’m a lot stronger than I thought, cancer will teach you that pretty quick. It now makes me so happy to help others, especially people who really don’t have a voice. I believe in equality, empathy and kindness.
Do you feel a new Tamara arose from this diagnosis?
Maybe not a new Tamara but definitely a more focused one. I came so close to death, it changed everything for me, almost overnight my priorities became crystal clear.
My biggest epiphany was realizing when we die, all we leave our loved ones with is a feeling. How will you be remembered? I hope my children remember the laughs and can recount great memories that make their hearts sing. They can share their memories with friends and their own families one day, I will live forever if that happens. So now life is about trying to live slower, love longer and creating moments.
How have your children responded to this?
My children don’t know about my cancer diagnosis. They were 1, 3 and 4 when it all happened, far too young to comprehend what was going on – I could barely understand it myself. One day I will tell them all about it, the farther I get away from it the better. I want to protect them and not pass any of my fears onto them. In my long life, my cancer will just be a bump on the road. A small detour in a beautiful, happy life.
What is your favorite activity to do with your children?
I really love reading with the kids, watching their love for books evolve has been such a gift. Listening to their sweet voices, watching their little, dimpled hands turn the pages – it’s the best.
You feel most beautiful when?
When it’s just me and my husband and he tells me why he loves me.
When you get a quiet moment, what do you like to do the most?
Quiet moments are so hard to come by these days! When I get home from work the first thing I do is wash my TV makeup off and put on my pyjamas. I spend time with each of the kids in their rooms, we talk about their day and read a little bit. Bedtime is complete chaos but there are quiet moments with each of the kids and I love it. When the kids fall asleep it’s just my husband and me, a late dinner and we catch up on our day. One day we’ll be bored but it’s not any day soon!
Who is your Mother Muse?
Every fierce mother who is raising children. It’s a beautiful privilege to be a parent or be loved by a parent .
Can you give a quote about Mother Muse coffee books?
It’s wonderful to have book where women share stories and are celebrated. We have so much to teach each other.
Mother Muse Tamara Taggart, Photographer Jenzel Velo