First pictures of Kerry and Ralph McLean at home with new baby
'We had given up on the idea of a third child Eve was a wonderful surprise'
Husband and wife radio stars Ralph and Kerry McLean talk about welcoming baby Eve, who arrived just before Christmas, into their brood. Stephanie Bell caught up with the couple in their first interview since their new child was born.
Radio Ulster husband and wife team Kerry and Ralph McLean have been on cloud nine since December when they welcomed the latest addition to their family, baby Eve.
The popular presenters have been overwhelmed by the good wishes from listeners who have showered them with hundreds of letters, cards and gifts to celebrate the birth of their third child.
Little Eve, who was due on Boxing Day, surprised her parents by coming into the world almost three weeks earlier than expected on December 7 - just three days after Kerry left the airwaves to start her maternity leave.
However, it meant little Eve was home and settled well before Christmas, making it an extra special one for the family this year.
Speaking for the first time about their joy, Kerry and Ralph revealed that Eve has already become the adored little sister of older brother Dan (7) and sister Tara (9).
And Kerry also confessed how shocked she was to discover she was pregnant just a few weeks after deciding to get rid of all of her baby equipment in the belief that she was not going to be a mum again.
It was just after her 40th birthday last year when she was stunned but overjoyed to discover little Eve was on the way.
She says: "Eve was a very pleasant surprise. We had always intended to have another baby but it just hadn't happened. We had accepted that it was not going to happen and that we had got our wee family and that was that. I had turned 40 and reluctantly decided to give all my baby stuff away.
"I have a wee boy who was very rough and broke our cot in three places - but even though it was broken I couldn't bear to part with it.
"I finally decided it should go to the dump and I remember a friend joking with me at the time, saying that as soon as I left it at the dump I would find myself pregnant."
Shortly after her 40th birthday, Kerry became ill and thought she had a flu which she couldn't shake off.
As it continued to drag on, she considered pregnancy and, although convinced she couldn't possibly be expecting, she bought a home test kit and carried out the test in secret.
She recalls: "I didn't tell Ralph, because for me it was so far from probable that I didn't want him to get excited for nothing.
"We were due to go out that night when I nipped upstairs to do the test, not expecting for one minute that it would be positive.
"The next thing I was screaming Ralph's name down the stairs. It was a real shock.
"The two of us were stunned but delighted and we just giggled for about 40 minutes."
Conscious of the risks involved in pregnancy as an older mum, Kerry and Ralph decided to keep their good news to themselves and told no-one for five months.
Kerry says that she was anxious throughout her pregnancy, but now that little Eve is here, she is discovering that life as an older mum does have its advantages.
She says: "Everything you read about being over 35 and having a baby is all about risks and things going wrong and I was scared right through my pregnancy in case something happened.
"It was a bit of a bumpy pregnancy, which is why it wasn't such a shock when she came early.
"I finished work on the Thursday and was brought in on the Monday to have her by Caesarean, so there was no turnaround whatsoever and no preparation time.
"Thankfully, mum and dad were there to look after my poor kids. It is great because we were home for Christmas, which made it very special.
"I think I do see a difference as an older mum. Everyone said I would be more tired, but I don't really know that I am.
"I get the kids off to school in the mornings and go back to bed for an hour with the baby, which is bliss.
"I definitely think I am much calmer. The first time, you are so panicked and scared and you don't know what you're doing. I had just 20 months between my first two, so it was quite hectic and this time it was all just so calm."
Kerry, who presents a popular afternoon show on Radio Ulster during weekdays and husband Ralph, who is acclaimed for his country music show, met when they both started working for the BBC in the same week in 2001.
They became a couple in 2002 and married in 2006, settling in Kerry's home town of Ballymoney to be close to what she describes as her "large extended family".
Kerry reveals, though, that she was smitten when she first set eyes on Ralph at the tender age of just 15, after sneaking into Kelly's nightclub in Portrush.
She says: "He was standing against a wall and I spent the whole night walking past him, but he never noticed me.
"I have since found out that he's really short-sighted, so he just didn't see me."
Ralph (46), who is also a regular presenter on BBC TV, is a devoted family man who describes Kerry and his kids as "the best thing that ever happened to me".
He says: "I have a great job and I love it and it doesn't even feel like work sometimes. There are times, though, when you think 'What is the point of being here?' And for me it is about having my family and I just feel really, really fortunate."
Famous for his massive music collection - he has thousands of vinyl records and CDs - which Kerry says is taking over their family home, he has conceded that he might now have to give up a large part of his beloved records to make room for the new arrival.
"It is the ultimate sacrifice, but I am prepared to make it," he jokes.
"I think when Eve gets to the stage that she needs her own room I might be in trouble and have to give up my study and put some of it in storage - but it is a sacrifice I am happy to make."
The doting dad is thrilled by the birth of his new daughter and says he is helping where he can by making cups of tea during the 4am feeds.
He says: "It's been brilliant. It's great to have another chance to go on the merry go round. Being a dad is the best thing I've ever done, it is so rewarding and so much fun and very, very special.
"It is amazing how it all comes back to you. I can change a nappy with the speed and efficiency of a Formula One pit stop team. I also do what all blokes do and make cups of tea and all the important things to try to help where I can."
The kids, too, are loving having a little sister in the house. Kerry is taken aback by just how much love and affection Dan and Tara have shown to little Eve.
She says: "They absolutely adore her.
"My older girl loves her to bits - Tara is a real bookworm and is already trying to read to her and show her books.
"Dan loves babies and I knew he would love her, but I had no idea just quite how in love with her he would be.
"He talks and sings to her first thing in the morning and last thing at night - even when she is sleeping, he can't stop stroking her head and trying to hold her hand."
Hundreds of cards, letters and gifts have been posted to the couple since Eve's birth, not to mention the thousands of messages from wellwishers on social media.
Kerry, who continues to keep in touch with many of her regular listeners through Facebook and Twitter, says she is profoundly moved by how kind everyone has been.
She adds: "It has been so special and very, very touching. I love my day show, it feels like it is a wee club in the afternoon and I am also in contact with a lot of my listeners on Twitter and Facebook - I love that interaction.
"It doesn't feel like there is just me and a microphone, but that I am in a room with all these people who are listening.
"I have been seriously blown away by the amount of people who have sent cards, letters and presents.
"Apparently people don't write letters any more yet I have received hundreds since Eve was born.
"The fact that people who I have never met before took the time and the trouble to do that is amazing.
"I would really love this chance to thank everyone; it is incredibly humbling."