Loose Women presenter Andrea McLean is mum to two children, Finlay, 9, and Amy, 4. Read our exclusive interview where she discusses getting pregnant through IVF, losing her baby weight and balancing a career while being a mother.
Had you always wanted to be a mum?
‘It was one of those things I just took for granted – that it’s just what happens; you fall in love, you get married you have kids and that’s it, so I got a bit of a shock when I was 28 and was diagnosed with endometriosis meaning I had a very small chance of having children. I ended up having fertility treatment to have Finlay, my first son, who’s now nearly 10. Usually having endometriosis stops you getting pregnant but if you do then it increases the chance of having a child naturally, which was what happened with my second, Amy. So now I have two and I am very happy and very lucky.’
What was the process of IVF like?
‘Well first of all I had a little operation to check all the tubes and everything to see how far the endometriosis has spread. I found out that I only had one working tube so my chances of getting pregnant were already halved. I also had cysts on my ovaries which meant I didn’t ovulate properly so my chances of getting pregnant were getting less and less. I was put on Clomid which is a drug that you use before you go on IVF and it just makes you massively fertile – you produce loads of eggs and get very hormonal. The first stage of fertility treatment is trying to get pregnant naturally while on this drug and I was very lucky that within 6 months I actually got pregnant so I never had to go down the actual proper route of IVF, I was the stage before.’
How did you feel when you saw the positive result on the test?
‘It’s funny, because in all it had taken two years to see that result. We were told initially to go away and try naturally which we did and then went back to the doctor and back and forth trying different levels of the drug and increasing it so I was testing myself every single month. Anyone who’s actively trying to get pregnant knows what that’s like and although it sounds like a very short amount of time, it feels like forever. All you seem to see is pregnant women everywhere and baby adverts on the TV so it was quite a strange feeling when that line finally appeared.’
How was the actual pregnancy? Did you have much morning sickness?
‘I was very lucky that both my pregnancies were relatively normal. I did have three months of horrible morning sickness where I felt absolutely disgusting and then in my second trimester I was like a little pocket rocket, I was full of beans and really energised but then I put on four stone of weight so I was fairly massive and very tired by the end. With Finlay I stopped work a month before he was due and with Amy I actually through the towel in what was supposed to be a month before she was due. She arrived the following week so it was quite lucky that I stopped working when I did because I would have literally come off air and gone into labour.
‘If you feel well enough then keep going, there’s nothing to stop you. Just listen to your body, if it’s telling you to stop and take it easy, then absolutely do that and listen to what your body’s saying – but I felt fine so I carried on.’
Did you have any strange cravings?
‘With the first all I had was pure greed, I wouldn’t call it cravings I just had absolute gluttony. My thing was chocolate mini swiss rolls and I ate them until they were coming out of my ears. I used to just lie on the sofa and watch Murder She Wrote while eating them. With Amy it was different because I put on so much weight the first time I really wanted to take it easy and be careful so I was much healthier and I didn’t crave lots of junk food. I didn’t give in to my gluttonous longings yet I put on exactly the same amount of weight, it made no difference at all. It was very annoying.’
Did you find losing your baby weight hard? How did you do it?
‘It was really hard. With Finlay I was 33 so it took me a year to get it off and what I did was join a gym and got a personal trainer. I got a gym that was close to GMTV and literally I’d come off air and walk round the corner. It was a really stinky little gym under the arches of Waterloo station so nothing flash but I used to meet up with my Australian personal trainer and train with him and he really helped me get in shape.
‘But with Amy it took two years, it just took ages but I was older and so again I hired a personal trainer who came to the house and we’d work out in the garden. I’d sometimes go to the gym but by then I just didn’t want to be sweating and fat in front of people. I set some money aside and decided that’s what I wanted to do and it’s absolutely worth it. With me I’m intrinsically lazy and I will cheat and try and do a work out, but if I get too hot I’ll stop so it helped having someone there forcing me to keep going. It does definitely work. It’s more motivation but also you’re paying for them to be there – and I’m too tight to waste money.’
How do you juggle being a working mum with a career?
‘I don’t know, I always look at other people and wonder how they do it. I seem to do lots of different things not quite as good as I should do. When I’m at work my brain is thinking ‘I hope the kids are alright at school’ when I’m at home I’m thinking ‘Oh gosh I should have done that interview better’. You run around a lot, you split yourself into six different pieces and hope you can keep all the plates spinning. I’m really lucky that Steve (Andrea’s husband) works more regular hours than I do so he tends to be home for 5pm so if I have work in the evening he’s at home. I’m also really lucky in that I have a lovely lady to come in that helps with the kids and does the school run so we juggle it between the three of us.’
What advice would you give to women who want it all?
‘I would say don’t see it as having it all just do what makes you happy. I like working, I‘m interested in other things than being a mum. I love being a mum very much but I need to do something else as well and I think it actually makes me a better mum being a working mum because when I’m with them, I’m with them, I’m interested in what they’ve got to say because I’ve done something that’s stimulating. Find a way of making it work for you and if you want to give yourself 100% to being a mum, just do it and do whatever makes you feel good, everyone’s different.’
What do you do when the kids are screaming, bored and restless?
‘Normally when they’re going mad it’s cabin fever and that can be really annoying if it’s a Sunday and you’re knackered. Back in the day you would have just slobbed out in front of the telly eating cheesy Wotsits, watching EastEnders but you can’t do that when you’ve got children so what I tend to do is just say: “Right everyone, shoes on, we’re going for a walk”. My parents used to say that to me and I used to absolutely hate it and now I’ve inflicted the same misery on my children.
‘We’ve got a dog so I we take him for a walk and that normally seems to work. We’ve got quite a few commons near where I live and I’ll tend to take them there rather than just to the park.
‘We climb trees, we chase around, play hide and seek, do normal stuff and even if it’s raining we just put our macs and wellies on and get stuck in and get outside. That seems to be the trick really, just get them out in the fresh air, they might moan but usually it works.’
What’s the funniest things your kids have ever done?
‘When Finlay was about 4-years-old he was obsessed with Tarzan – he insisted on being called Tarzan and he wouldn’t answer to Finlay, even his nursery teachers had to call him Tarzan, it was hilarious. For about 6 months when I’d turn up at nursery I’d hear ‘Tarzan your mum’s’ here’ and as soon as he’d get home he’d take off all his clothes and run around in his pants and that’s just how it was, all the time, constantly on all fours pretending to be Tarzan.’
Do you think that romance goes out the window once you have kids or can you still find time to be romantic?
‘In the ideal world it stays, in the real world it goes absolutely out the window and normally there’s at least one day a week where you want to stick a knife through each others hearts and I think people are lying if they say different. It’s really stressful and men and women cope with having kids in different ways – I tend to get stressy and run around while he gets grumpy and shouts and then I get annoyed with him for shouting but then to be honest once they’ve all gone to bed if you can crack open a bottle of wine and just sit and laugh about it that is the best remedy, it might not necessarily be very romantic but if you can try and laugh about all the rubbish that has gone on during the day then it’s great. Laughter is more important than romance.’
You’re involved in a sun awareness campaign with Boots – why did you choose to get involved with that?
‘Really its because of my weather background – for years and years especially during the summer months for GMTV, I’ve been out and about telling people about how strong the sun was, what the UV levels were and every day we did a UV warning for people so it was just really interesting for me to get involved. Like everybody else I only put on more sun tan lotion when I feel like I’m getting burned and I think most of us don’t put enough on so it was to educate people to make sure they were using the right kind of UVA level. It was also to make them aware that even though we’ve had a rubbish summer with a lot of people thinking “the sun’s not really shining and it’s grey so I don’t need to put sun tan lotion on” you actually do because even if it’s a bit cloudy the UVA rays can actually be magnified. It might be the end of September but it’s still important to use sun protection.’
What issues do you think families face when it comes to children and sun protection?
‘Just getting them to keep still. That’s why I think it’s brilliant how Boots have the once a day suntan lotion. We’ve just come back from holiday – we went for a couple of weeks to Spain so we arrived with lily-white British skin and as soon as we got there my top tip was that I always put the sun tan lotion before we get dressed rather than waiting until you get down by the side of the pool and they’re excited and desperate to get in the water.
I put it on before they’ve even got dressed and they’re standing there with nothing on. I give them a thorough once over and then you know that you haven’t missed any bits. I always make sure I put on the ones that are aimed at kids, that are waterproof and that are going to last for a good few hours so then I know they’re safe. Oviously I keep topping up throughout the day but I can relax when I get to the pool.’
What factor do you think children should wear?
‘I just stick to 50 to be honest, even when they’re getting brown I still stick to it because I just don’t want them to get burnt. I grew up in the Caribbean and so being in the sun was something that I did every single day and obviously as a child in the 70s we didn’t have the same awareness of the damage that the sun can do. My parents used to put oil on us and that was in the Caribbean so I got burned within an inch of my life all the time. It’s only now that you find out it’s the damage that you have as a child that can damage you as an adult so I think with that knowledge there’s no excuse not to slap it on the children. I mean as a grown up if you make the decision that you are going to take the risk that’s your decision but you owe it to the kids to give them the most help you can.’
Do you have a signature dish? And, what are Finlay and Amy’s favourite meals?
‘I’m the worst cook in the whole world so my signature dish involves spaghetti, mince and a jar of sauce. That’s basically it in terms of my signature dish and that’s Amy’s favourite meal, she would eat spaghetti Bolognese every night of her life. Finlay hates spaghetti Bolognese so with him, he’s quite odd actually, he likes grown up food, he’s massively into smoked mackerel at the moment, I have no idea why he likes that but I was eating it one day for lunch and he asked if he could try and he liked it, but his favourite meal is a roast dinner.’
Do you bake?
‘Yeah a lot and I always have done since they were little because the great think about baking is even if your rubbish you can still do it and I am spectacularly rubbish but we bake at least once a week at home. With Amy I used to do it all the time especially in the winter time when you’re trying to think of things to keep them busy, but now with Finlay I’ve started letting him help prepare dinner. He quite likes to chop vegetables or if we’re making chicken nuggets or something I’ll chop the chicken up and I let him dip it in the egg and the flour.
‘We made homemade pizzas the other day and that was fun. It was just a mix we got from the supermarket where you add a bit of water and roll it out with a rolling pin. We made lots of little ones, Amy made heart shaped ones and Finlay made round ones and I just let them put on their own toppings. We actually used tomatoes we had growing in our little vegetable garden. I had forgotten about it until Amy walked in carrying lots of tomatoes, but we’ve got these grow bags from the Great Little Trading Company with lots of different vegetables in by the side of the house. It was great, because we spent ages making the dinner they actually ate it.’
Andrea McLean is working with Boots Soltan to help educate people about the importance of 5-star UVA sun protection.
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