Becoming a mother was far from easy for actress- turned-chef Lisa Faulkner. She started trying for a baby after she married the actor Chris Coghill in 2005, but the next two years would leave her emotionally and physically drained as she suffered an ectopic pregnancy and several failed IVF attempts.
‘I actually said I’d give IVF three goes, and I ended up doing four. I couldn’t afford any more; I spent all of my savings. But also mentally, I couldn’t go through it again,’ she says. ‘It’s a really tough process.
‘I don’t think people have any idea until they go through it themselves. It’s not just the physical stuff that happens; it’s the emotions and the hormones that are pumping through your body. You’re on this whole trip of desperation for a baby and you’ll do anything. ‘But I was determined to be a mother.’
So, after deciding that they couldn’t put themselves through any more cycles of IVF, Lisa and Chris (who are now separated) adopted a 15-month old girl, Billie, in 2008.
With her first-hand experience of the adoption process (it took two years for her to be approved), Lisa is now firmly behind government plans to speed up the procedure and remove regulatory hurdles.
‘It’s a very hard process. I do understand that it has to be, because you’re dealing with children who have been in care, who have not had the best start in life – and so you want to make sure that you place them with the right people.
‘But it should be made easier. I’m glad that the government is changing certain silly laws. When I adopted, you couldn’t adopt a black baby, unless you were at least mixed-race – now, I think they’re wavering on that. I do understand the reasons why they do it – they’re trying to create a sense of community and a sense of togetherness, which is really important. But I think the most important thing for a child is love.’
The Children and Families Bill – driven by Education Secretary Michael Gove (himself adopted as a baby) – seeks to reform the adoption process in England. It had its first reading last month.
As part of the bill, £150m will be directed to support adoption reform. With the number of children currently being taken into care running close to record levels, Lisa is keen to stress just how worthwhile it is to persevere with the process. ‘I wanted to be a mum for a very long time and I feel blessed that I finally am,’ she beams. ‘I love Billie so much, and I want her to have everything that she could possibly have. I adore her.’
The years of trying for a baby took their toll on Lisa, but she found a new lease of life when she joined Celebrity MasterChef in 2010.
Winning the show was a fitting tribute to her mother Julie, who lost her two-year battle against throat cancer when Lisa was just 16. Cooking, Lisa says, helped her to feel close to her mother after she died.
‘My mum was always in the kitchen – if I wanted to hang out with her, I would go there. ‘So when she died, I spent all of my time in there, looking at her recipe books and all the recipes that she’d written down, and then cooking them. There’s something lovely about cooking the things that you know she cooked. I knew that she was sort of there, around me, and I felt really safe.’
Her first cookery book, Recipes From My Mother For My Daughter, was a tribute to Julie. Now, Lisa’s working on her second book – due to arrive in stores in September.
‘Writing it made me feel like she was around me,’ recalls Lisa.
And she’s using food to bond with the next generation, with little Billie always padding around the kitchen following in her mother’s footsteps.
‘She loves cooking with me, and hanging out with me in the kitchen. The first thing she says every morning is, “Mummy, can we make pancakes?”
‘We cook all the time and she just loves it. If I’m testing a recipe, I have to do it when she’s at school, otherwise she always wants to help me.’
So, as she celebrates Mothering Sunday, I wonder if Lisa’s mother gave her any particular advice that she has followed throughout her life – and that she will then pass on to Billie.
‘Yes,’ reveals Lisa. ‘She wrote me a letter and said, “Keep your shoulders back, and never follow the crowd”. It’s the best thing she could have told me.’
Lisa has created some delicious earlymorning recipes with sweet and juicy Florida grapefruit. More information at www.facebook.com/floridagrapefruit
This interview was first published in The Lady magazine on March 8 2013
This interview was also picked up by The Daily Mail: