The IVF road is such a lonely one

AC­TRESS AND FOODIE LISA FAULKNER TALKS TO HAN­NAH STEPHENSON ABOUT IN­FER­TIL­ITY, ADOP­TION AND REL­ISH­ING HER BLENDED FAM­ILY WITH FI­ANCÉ JOHN TORODE

Llanelli Star - - BOOK SHELF -

AC­TRESS and cook Lisa Faulkner likes the term ‘blended’ – and not just when she’s re­fer­ring to food. The 2010 Celebrity MasterChef win­ner is talk­ing about the ‘blended’ fam­ily she has with her fi­ancé John Torode – the chef popped the ques­tion at Christ­mas and they plan to marry in the au­tumn.

When they got to­gether, Aus­tralian John, 53, al­ready had four chil­dren from two pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ships, and Lisa has a 12-year-old adopted daugh­ter, Bil­lie, with her ex-hus­band, for­mer EastEnders ac­tor Chris Coghill.

“I love the word ‘blended’,” the for­mer

Holby City and

Brook­side ac­tress en­thuses. “A lot of peo­ple I know are in the same sit­u­a­tion, with step-par­ents, step-sis­ters and broth­ers and you make it work.

“When John and I met we had our bag­gage, our past lives, and you just take some­body warts and all, and their fam­i­lies, and you just be­come blended.

“We all sit there at birth­day par­ties, and have din­ners and lunches. He has won­der­ful chil­dren and I’m blessed with them all.”

But it has not been an easy path to moth­er­hood for Lisa, now 47, who suf­fered years of in­fer­til­ity, rounds of IVF, des­o­la­tion and fi­nally the ul­ti­mate joy of adop­tion.

She charts ev­ery raw emo­tion of the jour­ney in new book Meant To Be – My Jour­ney To Moth­er­hood.

“The IVF road is such a lonely one. I just wanted to be that hand to hold for peo­ple who are go­ing through it. Eleven years on, it felt like I could be hon­est enough and my daugh­ter was old enough,” London-born Lisa ex­plains.

From around age 30, the for­mer model ad­mits she sensed her body clock tick­ing. Her primal urge to have chil­dren, the ex­pec­ta­tion that like her younger sis­ter Vic­to­ria – who seemed to fall preg­nant at the drop of a hat – she would soon be car­ry­ing one or more lit­tle bun­dles of joy, be­gan to con­sume her life.

Then, an ec­topic preg­nancy re­sulted in her hav­ing one of her fal­lop­ian tubes re­moved, re­duc­ing her changes of be­ing able to con­ceive in the fu­ture.

The ex­pe­ri­ence just fu­elled her des­per­a­tion, as she threw her­self into healthy eat­ing, tried to cut down on al­co­hol, went to yoga re­li­giously and had sex when she knew she was fer­tile.

A bat­tery of tests on both her and Chris could find no rea­son why preg­nancy wasn’t hap­pen­ing, so she upped the ante with the fertility drug Clo­mid when she was 33. The pills, she says, turned her into a ‘to­tal monster’.

Al­ter­na­tive treat­ments, in­clud­ing hyp­nother­apy and Cog­ni­tive Be­havioural Ther­apy (CBT) fol­lowed, but to no avail.

“I think when you are wound up inside like a coiled spring, not much can help you,” she re­flects.

The knots of ten­sion tight­ened when friends re­vealed they were preg­nant, and much later on, when her sis­ter told her she was preg­nant (again), she re­calls yelling at her about the un­fair­ness of life.

“I look back on that day and think that I was so wrapped up in me and couldn’t be happy for my sis­ter. It was aw­ful, a hor­ri­ble way to feel.”

Last chance saloon was IVF, which she went into op­ti­misti­cally. But after three un­suc­cess­ful at­tempts, she was phys­i­cally and Lisa and John Torode emo­tion­ally spent. Her con­sul­tant told her as gen­tly as he could that he was let­ting her go.

It was only when she re­alised she had reached the end of the road that she and Chris considered adop­tion and, after what seemed like an end­less process of form­fill­ing, so­cial worker vis­its and gen­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ev­ery as­pect of their lives, they adopted a 15-month old girl, Bil­lie, in 2008.

In the book, Lisa touches on the dev­as­ta­tion she felt los­ing her own mother Julie to throat cancer at 16, when her mum was just 44, and won­ders if her own deep yearn­ing for chil­dren evolved as a re­sult.

She re­veals that through­out the des­per­ate times when con­ceiv­ing was the only thing on her mind, her men­tal state was ques­tion­able.

Chris, she agrees, was end­lessly patient, as his wife turned from a fun-lov­ing ac­tress who knew how to have a good time, into an anx­ious, mood-swing­ing neu­rotic whose only fo­cus in life was to get preg­nant.

“He was go­ing through it, he wanted a child too. He was very patient’.”

While there was a happy end­ing with adopt­ing, the mar­riage ended in di­vorce in 2011, although they re­main friends and co-par­ents. Chris lives nearby and sees Bil­lie all the time.

“I think we were un­der huge pres­sure. When you go through times of try­ing to have chil­dren, you ei­ther come out of it and you’re to­gether, or you come out of it and you’re not. We were pretty much a shell. Now, we have a very good re­la­tion­ship.

We knew that as a cou­ple

we were done, but as par­ents we are not and we won’t be done.”

Lisa is now fo­cused on plan­ning her up­com­ing wed­ding – and she says Bil­lie is de­lighted she and John are ty­ing the knot.

“She just wanted to know which dress she could wear.

“They get on very well. Bil­lie is go­ing to be my best woman. I don’t know if she’s go­ing to say any words – we’re just talk­ing about how it’s all go­ing to work.”

Like many blended fam­i­lies, the cou­ple, who have been to­gether since 2012, didn’t rush into things.

“We took ev­ery­thing so very slowly. We in­tro­duced the chil­dren six months after we started go­ing out with each other and then it was only for lunch. It was slow and cen­tred around our chil­dren be­ing OK. It was never about us. By the time we moved in to­gether, it felt very nor­mal.”

While she notes in the book that her slight hope of preg­nancy will be with her un­til she hits the menopause, she also writes, ‘There’s a hole inside me that has never been filled’.

“That’s not just about be­ing a mother,” she says now. “That hole is called grief. It’s about los­ing my mother. That’s what will al­ways be there. The hole is filled up by my daugh­ter and my fam­ily. Bil­lie and I heal each other.

“She says to me, ‘Aren’t you pleased the IVF didn’t work?’, and I say, ‘ Yes, I re­ally am, be­cause oth­er­wise we wouldn’t have each other’.”

■ Meant To Be – My Jour­ney To Moth­er­hood by Lisa Faulkner is pub­lished by Ebury Press, priced £16.99.

Lisa Faulkner

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