‘I’d think is this my punishment? Maybe I don’t deserve to be a mother’: After a ‘miracle’ pregnancy at the age of 41 ended in a miscarriage, Lisa Snowdon reveals how she found herself agonising over a termination she had in her 20s

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After a 'miracle' pregnancy at the age of 41 tragically ended in miscarriage, TV presenter Lisa Snowdon (pictured) found herself agonising over a termination she'd had in her 20s

Coming to terms with not realising her life-long dream of having children was difficult enough for former model and television presenter Lisa Snowdon.

However, if that pain wasn’t sufficient to bear, Lisa, 51, tormented herself, in her darkest hours, with thoughts that this devastating outcome might be ‘punishment’ for an abortion she had in her late 20s, a pregnancy she now recognises could have been her ‘one shot’ at motherhood.

Harder still, she has spent the past 20-plus years imagining that baby as a child, a teenager and now a young adult, painfully aware of how differently her life would have panned out if she had continued with the pregnancy. ‘I’d think, “was that my chance and it’s gone? Is this my punishment? Maybe I don’t deserve to be a mother because I did that”,’ says Lisa, a statuesque beauty who, despite decades in showbusiness, is refreshingly down to earth.

‘You do kind of put yourself through a bit of torture. I think we women have the capability to do that often to ourselves. We just try and add salt to the wound if we’re feeling s*****. We’re like, “what else can I do in order to make myself feel even worse?” To blame ourselves and feel shame.

‘I stand by the fact that it [the termination] was the right decision because I’ve always thought that if I’m going to have a family, I want a supportive partner — who’s loving, who’s there — and I was with a man who wasn’t the right man to have in my life. He’d let me down, hugely, wasn’t even there for the first doctor’s appointment [about the pregnancy].

After a ‘miracle’ pregnancy at the age of 41 tragically ended in miscarriage, TV presenter Lisa Snowdon (pictured) found herself agonising over a termination she’d had in her 20s

‘If I’d had the baby, I’d have been connected to that man for the rest of my life. But every now and then I’d think, ‘Gosh he or she would be this or that age now’. You never forget.’

Agonising though her fertility journey has been, it was far from the first challenge Lisa has had to overcome. Her parents separated when she was 16 — her sisters, 13 and six at the time, and her mother left the family home in Welwyn Garden City.

‘Parents splitting up is never easy, regardless of who leaves, and we still saw my mum,’ says Lisa. ‘In the beginning, I thought the decision my mum made was selfish and cold, and I blamed her — I didn’t understand.’

Lisa now has a good relationship with both her parents and is far more forgiving, believing a big reason their marriage didn’t last is that they were so young, 17 and 18, when she was born.

She has, she says, always been the maternal and nurturing one in the family, taking care of both her siblings and her mum and dad, and spent her early adult life certain she would one day be a mother.

However, during her 30s, none of the men she dated struck her as father material. So she was shocked, as it wasn’t planned, but overjoyed when she conceived just one more time, aged 41, and again while in a relationship with an ‘unsuitable’ man, whom she didn’t see a future with.

By then, desperate finally to realise her ambition to be a mum and acutely aware her biological clock was very much against her, Lisa decided to keep the baby, expecting to raise it as a single mum.

‘This time, even though the relationship wasn’t perfect, I saw it as a sign from the universe — maybe from God — that I had been forgiven and I was finally going to have a baby. I was going to be a mum,’ says Lisa. ‘I am not religious, but it was hard not to feel blessed at that moment, given the odds.’

George Smart, whom Lisa had briefly dated when she was 30 and working at MTV, had walked back into her life. Both pictured last month

George Smart, whom Lisa had briefly dated when she was 30 and working at MTV, had walked back into her life. Both pictured last month 

However, it was sadly not to be. Shortly before she went on air, on the LBC morning radio show she presented for nearly eight years, Lisa began to bleed.

‘I rushed to the bathroom, full of panic at seeing all that blood. I didn’t know what to do. We’d only just gone on air, and I knew I had to keep working,’ she says recalling that ‘dreadful day’ when walking out, mid-show, would have drawn not only her colleagues’ attention but that of the listening public to her early, and unplanned, pregnancy.

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‘I dug deep and tried to park the dread I felt in the pit of my stomach, praying that my baby would be OK. As soon as the show was finished and we were off air, I rushed to hospital and my worst fears were confirmed — the scan showed the heartbeat had stopped. My baby had died.

‘To say I was devastated is an understatement; I was heartbroken, inconsolable.’

George came back into my life at exactly the right time. Before that I would have pushed him away 

Lisa — who had previously explored the idea of freezing her eggs but been told they were of ‘poor quality’ — had seen the pregnancy as a ‘miracle’, evidence she was ‘meant to be a mum’ and was now suddenly forced to face the bleak reality that it was unlikely to ever happen.

She began therapy and, after a string of unhappy relationships, embarked on a year of being single, during which she worked on ultimately manifesting her ‘ideal man’, lying in bed at night, ruminating on the qualities he would have.

I ask what she pictured when she imagined her perfect partner. ‘Intelligent, loving, nurturing, a brilliant communicator,’ she says, without hesitation. And, lo and behold, towards the end of that celibate year, George Smart, whom Lisa had briefly dated when she was 30 and working at MTV, walked back into her life.

A mutual friend got in touch and said that George, originally from Hull and seven years her junior, would like to take her on a date.

Lisa had fond memories of their brief relationship over a decade earlier — which had ended because she was going to America to do some filming with the BBC and he was travelling a lot in his role as head of events — and, now they were older, the age gap seemed less significant.

‘He came back into my life at just the right time,’ she says. ‘Before that I would have pushed him away — he was way too calm, kind, loving and dependable, and I thought I needed drama.’

Lisa was and, over a decade later, still is, utterly smitten with George, 44, now a strategic communications consultant.

As it takes quite a man to feel he measures up to Mr Clooney (Lisa dated the Hollywood star on and off for five years having met him at a Martini commercial) does George Smart, I wonder, ever feel intimidated by the first George?

Lisa was and, over a decade later, still is, utterly smitten with George, 44, now a strategic communications consultant

Lisa was and, over a decade later, still is, utterly smitten with George, 44, now a strategic communications consultant

I was finally going to be a mum. I felt so blessed 

‘I wouldn’t be able to be with someone who moped around saying,  “But I’m not George Clooney”. I mean, that would just be awful. He wouldn’t be the right guy for me, I’d have to say: “Get a grip, man”,’ says Lisa, with customary directness. ‘I think, because he’s a Yorkshireman, he’s really confident and secure.’

While she finally got her happy ever after with George Smart, that’s not to say their relationship has been all plain sailing. As she was 42 when they rekindled their romance, Lisa told him, within weeks of their first date, that, if they wanted to have a baby, they needed to begin exploring all avenues straight away.

‘He said “Listen, I just want to be with you. If it’s just you and me I’m going to be the happiest man alive”,’ recalls Lisa, smiling at the memory. ‘That took the pressure off me. I didn’t want to go down the IVF route, find an egg donor or adopt, I just wanted it to happen.

‘And he was right. We’ve got loads of kids in our lives (five nieces and nephews between them), so we decided to enjoy them and most of all enjoy each other and have adventures, see the world and feel blessed we found each other again.’

So they left it to Mother Nature, to see if Lisa might be lucky enough to fall pregnant again. Although the odds, fertility-wise, were against her, she hoped the fact she looked young and was in good physical shape might mean she could ‘trick the system’.

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However, within a year of rekindling their relationship Lisa entered ‘the hell’ of what she now knows was the perimenopause, which left her feeling angry, hot and exhausted as well as decimating her libido. She believes it is only down to George’s laidback and supportive nature that they survived those years.

‘My behaviour was out of character — angry and nasty — and this red mist would descend,’ recalls Lisa. ‘George took the brunt of my anger every time, especially when I was in a dark mood. My outbursts would come out of the blue, totally unpredictable, for me and for him. The triggers would be so insignificant I can’t even remember what they were. After the event, I would feel the most awful guilt, which would stay with me for days.

‘But he’s such a positive person, the next day it would be as if nothing had happened. So I would try not to dwell on why I’d ruined a whole evening or what the catalyst had been.’

Encouraged by George, Lisa made an appointment with her GP who, after she broke down sobbing in his surgery, prescribed anti-depressants, which she took for six months.

While she finally got her happy ever after with George Smart, that's not to say their relationship has been all plain sailing

While she finally got her happy ever after with George Smart, that’s not to say their relationship has been all plain sailing

However, suffering crippling panic attacks, which left her suddenly nervous to commit to the broadcasting work she had excelled at for two decades, and convinced something else was wrong, on the advice of friends she made an appointment with a private doctor in Harley Street.

Blood tests were done and a follow-up appointment made. ‘He delivered the news I hadn’t been expecting — I wasn’t depressed, I was perimenopausal,’ says Lisa. ‘But, rather than leave it there or offer sympathy or support, he said, ‘so this means you’re getting old, there is no denying it, and you most definitely cannot have children’.

‘His words winded me. I remember digging my nails into my hands, squeezing so hard it felt like I had drawn blood, trying my hardest to not cry. Instead I just nodded and said I understood.’

My behaviour was out of character — angry and nasty 

The picture she paints of a woman navigating mood swings, hot sweats which would soak her sheets, and sleepless nights — all signs that her fertile years were behind her — while coming to terms with the knowledge that she would never have biological children is heartbreaking.

By her mid-40s, the lack of sleep led to her eating lots of carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods during the day, just to stay awake.

Lisa, who began her career as a fashion model, gracing the pages of magazines, including Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle, is passionate about food and cooking — her culinary skills were such a hit with judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace last year she was crowned BBC Celebrity Masterchef.

So it’s not too surprising to learn she doesn’t own weighing scales and, therefore, didn’t realise how much weight she had gained until she saw a photograph George had taken of her on holiday in Japan.

‘I’m nearly 5ft 10in tall, so I can carry a bit of extra weight without it being too obvious,’ she says. ‘But, when I saw the picture, I was so taken aback. I said: ‘Sorry, who’s that?’ ‘

Shortly afterwards, Lisa went on holiday with a friend and, stepping onto the scales in the hotel bathroom, discovered she was 13 stone — three stone heavier than the last time she’d weighed herself.

‘The last thing I was interested in was having sex as I just wanted to sleep through the night and, when you put on weight, it affects your confidence,’ she says. ‘For women, sex is so much more than a physical thing; it’s also about how we’re feeling mentally.’

Lisa puts her weight gain, and other physical symptoms, down to not being on the correct hormone replacement therapy back then, having been prescribed bio-identical progesterone cream by her private gynaecologist.

She started running, which helped a little with weight loss, but it was not until her late 40s, when she came across specialist Dr Naomi Porter, who prescribed a combination of body-identical oestrogen gel, testosterone and progesterone tablets, that Lisa got her menopause symptoms under control.

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‘Some women think that by taking testosterone they will rekindle the sex drive they had in their 20s, but, while it helps, you don’t ever get that back,’ says Lisa. ‘There’s so much pressure on women who are asked: ‘How’s your sex life?’ But, as you get older, it does become less important.’

Not all men, of course, understand this, but George has been supportive throughout.

‘I’m so lucky that George was so patient and would say ‘It’s fine. Whatever.’ It’s really refreshing to be with someone who didn’t put those pressures on me, he just wanted me to feel better.’

Having lost two of the three stone, Lisa, who looks svelte and strong from all the resistance training and reformer Pilates she now does, has accepted that, as we age, we tend to carry a little extra weight.

Although she loves wine, cheese and biscuits, she tries to limit her intake of anything too calorific to a couple of times a week, while eating lots of protein, including chicken, fish and eggs, and snacking on bone broth.

You have to be sensible to keep the weight off. . . but life is for living 

A picture of health, with clear skin, which moves naturally as it’s free of Botox and filler, and glossy hair, Lisa leads a pretty exemplary life in other ways too. She’s in bed by 9pm and up at 5am every weekday, so that she and George can train in the gym before work.

‘On holidays everything goes out the window and I’ll happily have a beer at 11 o’clock in the morning,’ she says, laughing. ‘It’s a struggle when you get to this age to keep the weight off, so you do have to be sensible — but life is for living.’

As well as presenting fashion and cookery slots on ITV’s This Morning, Lisa works with brands and charities and describes herself as ‘an accidental influencer’. She has 450,000 followers on Instagram where she shares workout videos and make-up tutorials as well as ‘self-care Sunday’ sessions in which she passes on tips to improve body and mind.

She has also written a book, Just Getting Started, a candid account of her life to date, so titled to reflect her relief at moving into this new, less-turbulent, post-menopausal, phase. Lisa has plans to continue raising awareness about the challenges facing women in midlife and hopes to film a documentary series about menopause.

Lisa and George have been engaged for seven years but have no plans to wed, partly because she, unusual though it may be for a woman who has lived much of her adult life in the spotlight, does not relish the thought of being centre of attention.

‘I’ve never had a desire to walk down the aisle, in fact the thought of it makes my toes curl,’ she says, wincing. ‘I know it seems unromantic, but marriage feels very old-fashioned.’

Pointing at the sizeable diamond on her ring finger, she adds: ‘That, for me, is the biggest commitment. He’s my life partner, for sure, and I don’t need a certificate.’

Does she, I wonder, ever fantasise about how life might have turned out had they committed to one another the first time they dated?

But Lisa has spent enough time dwelling on ‘what ifs’ and is adamant in her response.

‘No, that never would have worked!’ she insists. ‘You need to learn to love yourself before you can properly love someone else and we were always meant to come into each other’s lives when the time was right.

‘George says he always knew he’d end up with me, but he’d been living a full life and wasn’t pining after me.

‘I know it sounds strange, and not everyone believes in this stuff, but I honestly think we manifested one another back into our lives, and that timing is everything. He’s such a good influence — he keeps me calm and, whatever is going on, really cares about me. I feel incredibly lucky.’

Just Getting Started: Lessons in Life, Love and Menopause by Lisa Snowdon is out now.

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