Lisa Faulkner says ‘you find your child the way you were meant to’ after IVF struggles
FROM her infectious positivity today, you’d never know the heartbreak Lisa Faulkner suffered in order to get her longed-for daughter Billie.
She vividly remembers the moment 14 years ago when, after three rounds of IVF, her fertility doctor Mohammed Taranissi told her enough was enough and her tough journey to conceive was over.
Lisa Faulkner opens up on her heartbreaking journey to motherhood and marrying John Torode[/caption]
Looking back now, she’s eternally grateful for that. “I remember thinking: ‘Why are you letting me go?’ I didn’t understand. Everyone else had many goes at IVF and I only had three. He said I was mentally and physically done. He said I was on the edge, but I couldn’t see that at the time.”
After an ectopic pregnancy and putting her body through two years of gruelling IVF treatment, Lisa, now 47, and her then-husband, actor Chris Coghill, 44, toyed with the idea of surrogacy before going down the fostering route, which eventually led to adoption.
Billie, now 12, arrived in their lives when she was just 17 months old and the couple officially adopted her a year later. “She’s incredible,“ says Lisa. “It still makes me smile when I think about that moment. She was a little pixie and so gorgeous. I felt so lucky and still feel blessed.”
Eleven years after becoming a mum, Lisa decided it was the right time to pen her book Meant To Be, which details her story. “I finally felt confident enough to write it. Going through IVF was lonely. I wanted the book to hold somebody’s hand through that. There was no book for me.”
After being scouted as a model at 16, Lisa starred in Holby City and EastEnders. She won Celebrity MasterChef in 2010, meeting judge John Torode, 53, in the process, before getting together three years later.
The couple are now on series two of ITV show John And Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen and are planning their wedding after his surprise proposal on Christmas Day. It’ll be a small do this autumn and Billie will be Lisa’s “best woman” – in every way possible. We spoke to Lisa about the hope, despair and joy she’s experienced on her path to motherhood.
You’ve said you weren’t broody in your 20s. What changed?
My biological clock started ticking later than everyone else’s and then it went boom! I thought it was going to be easy [Lisa was 30 when she started trying for a baby]. I spent my life trying not to get pregnant and then suddenly, I couldn’t.
When did you realise it wasn’t going to be easy?
It started to become a fixation about six months in, and then when I was 31 we got pregnant and I thought that was what was meant to be. But we discovered it was an ectopic pregnancy at six weeks.
That must have been horrendous.
It was brutal. Nobody explained to me that an ectopic pregnancy wasn’t viable. I thought: “OK, it’s just growing in the wrong place, can you not move it?” I thought they could do anything. In the end, they had to remove one of my Fallopian tubes.
When did you decide to go down the IVF route?
I tried all sorts first, including acupuncture and a man who used what appeared to be a toothbrush on my feet. I was grabbing at anything people said would work. Then about a year later, Fern Britton took me under her wing and introduced me to [fertility expert] Zita West.
Did she suggest IVF?
She told me there’s no reason why IVF shouldn’t work for me, so I thought: “Oh, well that’s what we’ll do next and that will definitely work.” I spent all my savings – everything went on it. I think it was about £10k a go. It was lots of money, but if I was going to have a baby at the end of it, then it was fine.
How did you feel when your doctor told you three rounds was enough?
I was devastated, but I knew he was the best I could go to. He was so very caring and he tried everything. There was probably a bit of relief as well. After two years of IVF, it was full-on. I felt like a bloated, exhausted thing that walked around pretending everything was fine. I don’t think people realise how brutal IVF is and how much your body suffers.
Did you ever feel like your body had let you down?
It took me a long time to make peace with everything. In fact, it took the adoption. For years, I thought it still might happen. The thought that my body has let me down in a way will probably never go away completely. But I also feel lucky and I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have.
How did the adoption come about?
A friend suggested it. Sometimes you need someone to say you can do it and you’re strong enough. After the all-consuming nature [of fertility treatment], it was nice to feel I would be doing something that helped a child.
How long did the whole process take?
From deciding we wanted to have a baby and trying to get pregnant to finally adopting, it was six years. Once we’d officially adopted, it took a while to feel I could trust myself as a parent. It’s the same as bringing home your newborn baby. As much as you’ve grown this baby, you’re suddenly left alone and think: “Wow, this is it now.”
When did Billie first call you Mummy?
To begin with she didn’t call us Mummy and Daddy [fostered children aren’t allowed to], but once she was adopted she called me Mummy Lisa. Then she called me Mummy. I was happy when she called me Mummy Lisa!
You’ve said in your book you maybe love her more than if she was biologically yours.
I give her so much more, yes. I’m in awe of her because I didn’t make her. I look at her and I’m fascinated by the choices she makes. She’s her own person and has a strong personality. There are bits of me and her dad in there, bits of her family. She’s a story. There are lots of people who went into making her. She’s amazing.
How is co-parenting with Chris now you’re no longer together (Lisa and Chris divorced in 2011)?
It’s great. We’re on the phone, we talk, we parent together. If she’s being a nightmare or being wonderful, we share anything that we know. We parent really well together and he’s a fantastic dad. The most important thing is that Billie didn’t lose either of us.
Lisa Faulkner says there’s more than one way to make a family and claims she’s ‘thankful’ that IVF didn’t work[/caption]
How does Billie get on with John?
Great. We have a big blended family [John has four children from two previous relationships] and it’s really messy, brilliant and funny.
You write very movingly about losing your mum Julie to throat cancer when you were just 16 and how you don’t want that grief you feel to disappear.
I couldn’t write a story about me wanting to be a mother without mentioning my mum’s death, because it’s all interlinked. And there’s a real element of not wanting to let the grief go, which is quite a weird thing to say, but it would feel like I’m losing her.
How has your relationship with your mum shaped the one you and Billie have?
My relationship with my mum wasn’t the same as the one I have with Billie. She was great fun, a real energy and a force. She was moody and had her ups and downs and, god, now I realise it was because she wasn’t very well. They’re my last memories of her. I’ve been much more patient with Bills and we talk about everything. She knows she can ask me anything and sometimes it might not be easy, but she knows I won’t judge.
most read in fabulous
Has Billie read your book?
We’re in the middle of it at the moment. We read a chapter a night and she’s like: “Mummy, you were mad, you were obsessed!” I remember reading one of those funny novels years ago about somebody having IVF and also thought: “She’s crazy, that’s not me.” Little did I realise I was going to be that woman and that she wasn’t crazy at all.
Is it strange now to think about how different life would be if the IVF had been successful?
Billie once said to me: “Aren’t you pleased the IVF didn’t work?” It’s true that if my body hadn’t let me down, I wouldn’t have my daughter. So, in a way, I am thankful. You find your child the way you were meant to.
- Meant To Be: My Journey To Motherhood by Lisa Faulkner is out now (£16.99, Ebury Press).
- Hair & make-up: Annelie Byström Turner at Houseofjuba.co.uk using Lernberger Stafsing
- Lisa wears: blazer, trousers, both Mint Velvet; top, Topshop