James: She went through a Sprite stage. She had me going out in the middle of the night to buy gallons! I have also been on hand with the foot rubs – they’ve been my two jobs and I have delivered on both fronts.
James as Emmerdale’s Sam Dingle, with Chris Bisson as Jai Sharma.
There’ll be a nine-year age gap between Lily and your new arrival. Did you hope to get pregnant sooner?
James: We did. We’ve been trying to get pregnant for around two years but it just wasn’t happening, and then suddenly out of the blue we fell pregnant and it was a really pleasant surprise. Nancy: We’d just started going down the fertility route and were only three months into that when it happened without any intervention. James: We wondered if the hysteropingogram that Nancy had done had helped, because apparently it can get things moving.
What does the procedure involve?
Nancy: They put dye through your fallopian tubes to see if there are any blockages. There weren’t any in my case, but it can help improve your chances of conceiving by clearing the tubes out. It’s definitely not something I’d have again, though. It was an uncomfortable experience and triggered a similar kind of contracting pain to labour. But it was worth it for the end result. James: The doctor said they get quite a high number of people falling pregnant just after that one very simple procedure, so it was what we went for first, and then a couple of weeks later we fell pregnant!
Nancy: The next stage would have been toying with IVF, but we weren’t sure that was for us. James: I’m not the biggest fan of medical intervention, but we were really keen for Lily not to be an only child, so it was still something we were going to consider if things hadn’t worked out with the hysteropingogram.
Nancy: We’ve always thought two children would be a nice family unit.
How did you decide to have the hysteropingogram done?
Nancy: We just sat down together and discussed it. We went to our doctor and they then referred us to a specialist. At that time we had no idea what course of action would be taken. t>
Below and facing page left: After trying to get pregnant for two years, James and Nancy were thrilled to find they were expecting a baby
James: When we first went to the specialist they took various samples of bodily fluids from both of us and they tested absolutely everything to see if there were any problems, like a low sperm or egg count. We ended up getting pregnant before we even got those results back!
The whole process must have been a difficult time for you…
Nancy: It was quite frustrating and a bit of an anxious time. When I want something I have tunnel vision so it is all I had my heart set on. I’d almost resigned myself to the fact it probably wouldn’t happen, mainly due to my age.
James: When you get to your mid-thirties and you are making a conscious effort to try for a baby, I suppose you put a certain amount of pressure on yourselves because you are aware the clock is ticking.
Did it affect your relationship at all?
James: No, we have a very strong relationship that allows us to encounter whatever life throws at us. If we’d not managed to get pregnant it wouldn’t have affected us, because it wasn’t the be all and end all. It was just something we were desirous of having.
Nancy: We kept communicating about everything, which was very important. Every month was a bit of a let down because you are so sure it is going to happen that month, but James is very positive and he does not dwell on anything. I’m a worrier and I get stressed so he definitely helped me through it more than I helped him. He’s my rock.
Did you ever think about adopting?
James: No, it didn’t get to that stage, so we’d never got to the point of sitting down and discussing it, but I do not think we necessarily would have done that.
Nancy: We really did want another child but we wanted a sibling who’d be Lily’s natural brother or sister.
Can you describe the moment you both found out you were expecting?
Nancy: It was surreal and really emotional. Because we’d been trying for so long we had a massive stock pile of pregnancy tests, which we’d been doing sporadically. So one night I went upstairs while Lily was in bed, did a pregnancy test and then ran back downstairs and said:Is that two lines, James?!
James: There’s an old Irish saying that goes:Whatever’s meant for you won’t pass you by, so the fact that the baby has come along at this time of our lives will certainly make us cherish the fact that we have been blessed with another child. It was just an extra shock because Nancy had no inkling that she was pregnant!
Nancy: We found out really early on in the pregnancy so we did have the worry that it had taken so long to get pregnant and we didn’t want to assume it was all fantastic. We waited until 12 weeks to tell people, but everything’s been fine.
Have you been more cautious during this pregnancy, Nancy?
If anything I actually feel less stressed than I did with Lily. I feel like I have settled into this pregnancy quite well, but that may be because my life is different now and I’m a mum already, so I’m naturally busy anyway.
You’ve also found out you are expecting another girl…
James: I can never understand why people want to leave it as a surprise. It means you can get prepared. We didn’t really have a preference on the sex either. We just wanted a healthy baby. Nancy: Nothing will take away from how amazing giving birth is, and when you know the sex I feel you can bond with the baby more. James: We had an early gender scan at 16 weeks and then we had it confirmed at 20 weeks and had a 4D scan at 27 weeks, so it is been confirmed three times! The 4D scan was amazing and she was really wriggly. We had a 4D scan with Lily and this baby looks very similar to how Lily did at that week of pregnancy.
Had Lily been asking for a brother or sister? Nancy: When she was about seven she was saying we must have another baby! So when we told her, she was the happiest I have ever seen her, and said she really wanted a little sister.
I didn’t know if she’d be a bit concerned that she’d be pushed to the side, but she’s not shown any signs of that yet. She’s been involved with everything we have bought for the baby.
Have you thought about names?
Nancy: I wanted to continue the flower theme as we also have a dog called Daisy, who’s a Maltipoo. I quite like Rose, but we have not got a definite name picked, so we are going to wait until she’s born.
Do you have a birthing plan in place, Nancy?
I’m just having a standard hospital delivery. I’m not against the drugs either. I had back-to-back contractions with Lily and I didn’t have any respite because it progressed so fast.
James: We’ll put that down to the vindaloo! Nancy: I had one the night before Lily arrived so I think we will have one this time for old timessake!
So you wouldn’t mind having an epidural again?
Not at all. There are no medals for putting up with that amount of pain and not having pain relief.
Below and facing page: The couple tell us they put Lily’s speedy arrival down to Nancy’s vindaloo the night before – something they are planning to repeat with their second daughter!
Have you packed your hospital bag?
Nancy: AH the stuff is ready but I’m just trying to persuade James that I need a new Mulberry handbag to put it all in!
James: I think a 10p Bag For Life would be better! Nancy: I’m fully embracing the idea of apush present, but that shouldn’t be confused with the hospital bag present!
How are you both feeling about the birth? James: We’re both pretty relaxed. It’s difficult to come to terms with the reality of it until it is actually happening! I do have a flutter in my tummy when I think about it, though.
Nancy: I’m happy to go with the flow because you never know what’s going to happen, but of course the anxiety is still there because I remember how excruciating the pain was!
Are you planning to breastfeed again, Nancy?
I’d like to. I breastfed Lily until she was 11 months, so I’d like to do something similar again. We did also introduce formula feeds but I’d like to get back to work quicker this time so we will be introducing them earlier. I hope to be back doing one night a week after six weeks, so it is a good opportunity for James and Lily to bond with her.
Are you worried about the sleepless nights? James: I’m a big sleeper so it is the one aspect I’m not looking forward to!
Nancy: Even the odd nights when Lily wakes up if she’s had a nightmare kill me! Going back to really broken nights is going to take a lot of preparing.
How much time will you take off work, James?
I have two weeks paternity leave from the start of February. There’s quite a few people who are having babies at work like Charley [Webb] and Chris [Bisson], so it is nice having that to share with them. We went to see Emma Atkinslittle boy Albert recently, and Lucy Pargeter’s daughter is just a bit older than Lily, so it is good that there’s lots of Emmerdale children!
It’s been 20 years since you joined the soap. Can you ever see yourself leaving?
Of course, and there are lots of times when I think I’d like to branch out, but for the time being I’m very happy and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I do not really get recognised when I’m out, but when I do, people always say they were expecting me not to be able to string more than three words together!
Nancy: He won’t do the Sam impression for anyone, not even me!
Who are you closest to on the set, James?
I’m very close with Steve Halliwell [who plays Zak Dingle] and we have a similar sense of humour. The Dingles are always heavily involved at Christmas so there will be plenty for viewers to get their teeth stuck into.
We were saddened to hear about the death of Shirley Stelfox, who played Edna Birch. James: Shirley was an extremely well respected actress who had a fantastic and varied career. It was always a pleasure to work with her, as Edna was an iconic character and an integral part of the Emmerdale family. Her passing is a huge loss to Emmerdale and she will be sorely missed by us all.
You got engaged in 2010. How did you propose, James?
On Valentine’s Day I got down on one knee over a curry!
Nancy: I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was romantic in a James Hooton kind of way! I’d been working all night and I came home and he ordered a curry for us and then he popped the question. He picked the ring out himself and there’s been no talk of the wedding since [laughs]!
Do you feel any pressure to get married? James: No [laughs]! I’m sure we will do it at some point but we need to sit down and discuss it. We’ve got other things to think about right now, though!
Would you like to do it when the new baby is old enough to be involved?
Nancy: Yeah, that would be nice. But we thought that when Lily was born – she’ll probably end up getting married before us!
What are your plans for Christmas?
Nancy: We’re going to my family in Halifax and James’s dad is joining us. I didn’t fancy cooking Christmas dinner at nearly 35 weeks pregnant so my mum is taking over.
James: I will be on turkey-carving duty!
Nancy: James is a real last-minute buyer, which works in my favour because he ends up buying everything!