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To say the path to motherhood has been difficult for Lisa Faulkner is an understatement.
The actress endured years of hell with failed IVF, miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy.
But celebrity cook Lisa finally achieved her dream by adopting daughter Billie.
And while she is delighted at being able to call herself a mum, and living in domestic bliss with MasterChef judge John Torode, she has no plans to adopt again.
“I have got my little girl and I’m completely over the moon with my little angel,” Lisa says. “She is my number one, she is my everything.
“I feel very blessed to have her. I’m so very proud of my daughter. I’m surprised by her every day, I think she’s amazing. I am very happy with my lot.”
It’s been a rocky road to happiness for the 46-year-old, who recently returned to our screens as Fi Browning in EastEnders.
She adopted Billie with then husband Chris Coghill, a fellow actor, but they split in 2012 after seven years of marriage.
Later that year she went public with John, a year after his own marital break-up.
In her long journey to motherhood, Lisa suffered an ectopic pregnancy at six weeks, which left her with only one working Fallopian tube. She then spent £35,000 on four rounds of IVF, which were unsuccessful.
She described herself as a “walking mess” at that time and struggled to come to terms with the idea she’d never be pregnant.
“It’s really, really tough,” she says. “We take it for granted, thinking we are going to have three girls and two boys, and this is what my life is going to be, when it’s not.
“We put that pressure on ourselves, but also society puts that pressure on you. You meet someone and it’s all, ‘When are you going to get married?’
“And then it’s all, ‘When are you going to have kids?’ Then it’s, ‘When are you having another child?’ and, ‘When are you going back to work?’ It doesn’t stop.
“And for me, going on that route of IVF was really tough and there were so many failures.”
She goes on: “All my friends at the time were getting pregnant around me and it was heartbreaking. You want to be happy for everybody and you feel like such a failure.
“But there are other ways to be a mother. It took a long time for me to go, ‘I don’t have to carry a baby to be a mum’. One day you have to let that go.”
While Lisa has ruled out adopting a child with John, who has four children from previous relationships, there is one collaboration they are stewing on.
Lisa has released a collection of recipes based on her late mum Julie’s dishes, and may take inspiration from her partner to compile a couple’s cookbook.
“We live together, you never know,” she laughs. “We are hugely different cooks, which is lovely because he likes my cooking and I love his.”
Long gone are the days when Lisa was petrified of what Australian John, 52, might think of her creations.
He was a judge on Celebrity MasterChef when Lisa was crowned the winner in 2010, and she admits never wanting to let him down.
She says: “I am very lucky. When he tells me something tastes really good I’m like, ‘Oh, thank you’.
“I think, ‘That’s really special’.”
Lisa raves about John’s flair for Asian cuisine, though the couple are mindful of what they put in their food.
Former Spooks actress Lisa, whose latest cookbook is From Mother to Mother, is careful not to let Billie, 11, eat too much sugar but also conscious of being too strict.
“Kids want something sweet and a treat now and again, and no one is saying, ‘Don’t have that’,” says Lisa. “But kids are eating way more sugary snacks than they should.
“It’s all about teaching my daughter to be fit and healthy. She loves trampolining.
“And it’s about teaching moderation, not saying no. Say no to something and it becomes an issue.”
The actress also tries to avoid talking about diets with Billie.
Lisa says: “I don’t really ever diet. I would never want my daughter to ever think she needed to diet.
“The more you can cook at home, the easier it becomes to look after yourself.”
Lisa, who enjoys cycling and yoga, is two years older than mum Julie was when she died of cancer. Lisa, 16 at the time, says: “I check my breasts and keep on top of smear tests, but I try not to get too bogged down in it. I try to keep as active as possible and not think about it too much.”
She adds: “In another way I think, ‘Oh gosh, I’m 46. I feel so old’. And then I think, ‘I’m so lucky I’m still here’.”
Lisa backs Change4Life’s snacking campaign, encouraging parents to give children a maximum two 100-calorie snacks a day.
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