VIP mum Monique Sartor

monique sartor and williamBy MERCEDES MAGUIRE

MONIQUE Sartor entered the public arena in 2006 when, in a glittering ceremony at Sydney's Darling Point, she married former NSW planning minister and Sydney lord mayor, Frank Sartor. In December 2007 the pair welcomed to the world their first baby, William Cesare, 10 weeks before his due date. Weighing only 1.5kg at birth, baby Will spent seven heart-wrenching weeks at the Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick. During his time there, Monique was told by medical staff they urgently needed life-saving equipment for sick babies. So the former flamenco and classical ballet dancer has thrown her support behind the hospital which helped save the life of her premature baby and in October will co-host the Royal Happy Baby Morning Tea. Organisers aim to raise $60,000 for a special ventilator to help sick babies. Monique, 37, lives in the southern Sydney suburb of Beverley Park with baby Will, her husband, Frank and their two pug dogs, Zeus and Bacchus.

Your baby, William Cesare, arrived 10 weeks early in December last year. In hindsight, how prepared were you to care for a premature baby?

From week 28, I was in and out of hospital with haemorrhaging Ė our wee Will was threatening to arrive very early! And despite various specialists counselling me about the likelihood and consequences of having a baby so early, I really did believe I would make it a few more weeks and well out of any danger period. But when my waters broke at 30 weeks, there was no stopping the little fella. To be very honest, having a baby ten weeks early is extremely traumatic. Obviously, the first worry is for the health of the baby. Will was only 1.5kg when he was born, needed intubation for his breathing, was extremely jaundiced and needed to be nourished intravenously. He lived in a humidicrib under lights for the first few weeks. I didnít hold him until he was six days old.

Will is now almost 10 months old and is completely adorable. He has put on plenty of weight and not many people can pick that he was premmie, which feels like a huge accomplishment. I look at him every day and am so grateful that heís healthy, it could so easily have gone pear-shaped.Weíve definitely been the lucky ones.

Now that William is almost 10 months old, have things settled down into a routine in the Sartor household or is life as you knew it well and truly over?

We do have something that resembles Ďroutineí.This can be so easily thrown though if you go out during the day Ė you tend to pay for it later with a screaming baby!It takes a lot of adjustment to get used to having your once independent life now revolving around a babyís needs.Itís important to schedule time on your own every now and again and do the things you enjoy.

As a former dancer physical fitness must be important to you. Was health and fitness an important part of your pregnancy?
Iíd had a miscarriage only months before falling pregnant with Will. Then with the following pregnancy being pretty stressful - with several trips to the hospital - my focus was on keeping calm and trying not to worry too much about fitness as such. I did make sure I ate properly and was careful not to put on too much additional weight.

Were you surprised by how much your body changed after having a baby and how difficult was it for you to get back in shape?

Yep!Itís outrageous! Whatís the government doing about that, I ask!!!!

What is it that you love most about being a mum?
Watching him as he learns new things. At the moment, the big thing is giggling and playing coy.It's heart melting stuff!

Do you plan to return to the workforce and if so, how will you juggle your new work/life balance?

I am on 12 months maternity leave.However, when the time comes, I canít imagine bringing myself to actually drop him off at a day centre centre.Maybe I should book us both in!

Who does most of the domestic chores at home? Is Frank Ďhands-oní around the house?

Iím lucky that I have a hands-on husband.He does a mean roast lamb!

Life with children can be fairly chaotic, how do you and Frank keep the romance alive or steal time away to spend together?

We try to keep Friday nights just for us.Itís a chance for us to re-group after the hectic week.We also try to have a couple of short breaks out of Sydney during the year.

Life as a new mum, let alone to a premature baby, must be challenging. Do you find it easy to ask for practical support from family and friends?

Apart from Mum, no, I have trouble asking others for practical help.And Iím not sure how I can change this!However, I have lots of girlfriends who provide great moral support.

What has been your greatest personal sacrifice since becoming a mum?

Iím not sure that Iíd use the word Ďsacrificeí because you do it with love, but the complete change in identity you make when you become a mum is challenging.

How often do you take time out for yourself?

At any opportunity!

What's your top tip?

House work will wait.Enjoy the baby!

Can you tell us about your most tender memory with William so far, his first smile, a special cuddle?

My first cuddle with Will was magic.Until then Iíd only been able to hold his hand through the doors of the humidicrib.

If there was something you would change if you had your time over - what would it be?

Get a mothercraft nurse to help me with him during the first few weeks.

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

Paid maternity leave. More and better child care options.More parentsí rooms in shopping malls.