Lisa Faulkner: A Mother’s Tale
Actor Lisa Faulkner talks about her fertility struggles and how her childhood in south west London now frames her own family values
She may be best known for her acting roles, winning Celebrity Masterchef in 2010, and her recent TV series with fiancé John Torode, John and Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen, but this summer Lisa Faulkner has published a revealing memoir about her difficult journey to motherhood.
Meant To Be is the raw, candid and often heart-breaking tale of Lisa’s struggles with fertility. She writes with disarming honesty about her three gruelling rounds of failed IVF, her yearning to conceive naturally, the devastating effects of an ectopic pregnancy and the months of scrutiny under the spotlight of adoption panels.
Eventually, Lisa and her first husband,actor Chris Coghill, adopted a baby girl, Billie. Though the marriage didn’t last – Lisa describes the brutal strain infertility can place on a marriage – Chris and Lisa now co-parent together in north London.
Born in Merton, Lisa studied at The Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston and has fond memories of her childhood in south west London. While her father still lives in Wimbledon, Lisa has set up home in north London with restaurateur and Masterchef judge John Torode and her daughter Billie, now 12. It may have been a difficult and emotionally draining journey but in spite of everything Lisa says she wouldn’t change a thing about her road to motherhood…
What inspired you to tell your story?
I’d met a lot of women that were going through hell with their IVF journey and their fertility and I wanted to provide a little bit of sunlight and a bit of hope and to hold their hand going through it because it’s a really lonely place.
My path to motherhood has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. I tried everything in the quest to get pregnant and become a mother, exhausting every avenue in the search of motherhood and ultimately decided to adopt. My plan B became my plan A. It can be a lonely and isolating time, and this is the book I wish had been around when I felt at my most desperate.
I hope it will show people there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, that there is no right or wrong way to becoming a mother, no perfect path to parenthood; we each find our own way and it is wonderful and challenging however it happens.
What was your lowest point?
There were lots of low points in my journey. Definitely the ectopic pregnancy was a big blow. The end of each road was a low so going from having an ectopic to then failing all my IVF cycles… I think the first IVF failure was bad but the third was the end for me – so I I’d say probably the last IVF attempt was the worst one.
What do you hope other women in similar positions gain from reading your story?
I hope that they understand that they are not the only ones going through it. I hope that they maybe glean a little bit of hope and think that maybe adoption could be a way through. A lot of my book is about forgiving yourself – forgiving yourself and giving yourself time to move to the next thing if your [fertility] journey is over.
What would you say to people thinking about adopting?
The adoption process is hard because it has to be – it’s hard for a reason. But it’s so worth it. If you are thinking about [adopting] ask yourself all the questions that you are scared of asking. [Lisa tackles tough taboos in her book: “Will we love an adoptive child as much as a birth child (yes), will we look bad if we say we can’t take a child with disabilities (no) and offers invaluable, first- hand insights into the pressures, intrusion and process of adoption.]
You opted to go down the early permanence care route, a type of adoption where the child could be placed back with the birth parents after a short time. How did you deal with this initial uncertainty?
I just reminded myself to take each day at a time. I wrote it on the fridge and reminded myself that what I was doing was for the good of my daughter whether she would be my daughter or whether she would be my foster daughter. I knew I was doing something that would make her life better.
What did you love about growing up in south west London?
My favourite memories were going on walks and having picnics in Richmond Park and Bushy Park. My grandad worked at Hampton Court Palace as a glazier so we spent many days in Hampton Court running around the walled gardens and in the buildings that were out of bounds usually but we were allowed in because of my grandad.
I love Wimbledon Common. We do spend quite a bit of time there now but it’s sort of equal with my dad coming to see me and me going to see him. We like Light on the Common, Thai Tho, White Onion and Black Radish in the Village.
How does your upbringing and childhood frame the way you spend your own family time?
I mirror it – I had, as I say in the book, a very idyllic childhood and I wanted to recreate that for my daughter.
Meant to be by Lisa Faulkner is out now. Published by Ebury Press, £16.99 hbk