‘People assume I had IVF’ …but Christine Lampard got pregnant at 39 the ‘old-fashioned’ way. She reveals to Judith Woods why she and husband Frank waited nearly ten years to have a baby.
Like every mum of a newborn, daily grooming has taken a bit of a back seat for Christine Lampard since the birth of her baby in September. ‘I stick my hair in a bun and it will still be up there, unwashed, four days later,’ says the Northern Irish TV presenter, who has a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming air of delight whenever she talks about Patricia Charlotte, her daughter with football manager Frank, 40. ‘Everything has been neglected; I’ve had no time to wax so there’s hair growing everywhere, but who cares?’
And don’t mention her post-baby body. ‘I put on three and a half stone and I’m still a stone overweight but I couldn’t give a damn. Looser clothes is the answer. And bigger shoes; my feet have expanded so my size seven boats are now size eight ferries. I can’t fathom how any new mother can make it to the gym every day! That takes dedication I’ll never possess; I walk a lot with our dog Minnie and the baby in her pram, so that’s what passes for my “exercise regime”.’
Christine, 40, looks disgracefully well rested for a mother of a six-month-old. Patricia – who was named after Frank’s late mother Pat, but has already been nicknamed Patsy – may be something of an angel as tiny babies go (‘she’s a big eater, which makes her a great sleeper’) but the Loose Women anchor appears as glossy and glowing as we’ve ever seen her.
She’s also back at work from maternity leave, presenting one day a week on the ITV chat show, and standing in for Lorraine Kelly on her ITV morning programme Lorraine. She and Frank could, of course, afford a full-time nanny but they haven’t even got an occasional childminder yet. So far Christine’s parents have come over from Northern Ireland, allowing Christine to attend the Legends of Football awards with Frank, who was receiving the trophy, just weeks after Patricia was born. ‘I didn’t leak milk over my dress but it got to the point where I knew it was time to go home,’ she says, breaking into yet another grin.
‘All my friends in make-up and wardrobe have volunteered to look after Patricia when I’m on air,’ says Christine. This is impressive to the point of being a bit nuts. I assumed she would have some sort of babysitter in tow, but no, she’s determined to wing it. ‘Patricia is so chilled I can’t see there being a problem – and if there is, I’ll just sort something else out. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things; I am very privileged to have a job where I can juggle like this. Most women have a much tougher time and it’s just one morning a week.’
When Christine met Frank she was TV’s hottest star, whose day job involved being the cheerful foil to her grumpy co-host Adrian Chiles on The One Show. Frank was a football legend, playing for both Chelsea and England. And according to Mail on Sunday columnist Piers Morgan, who introduced them at the Pride of Britain Awards in 2009, it was pure chance that brought them together. ‘I attended with Frank and the cricketer Kevin Pietersen. After the show we decamped to the bar where Christine shimmied into view wearing a dazzling dress and even more dazzling smile,’ Piers tells me. ‘“She’s a right sort!” Frank exclaimed – an East End term that I believe translates as, “She’s a very attractive lady.” “Do you know her?” he asked. “Very well,” I replied. “What’s she like?” he responded. ‘‘Brainy, funny and, as you can see, very pretty. So way too good for you.” He laughed, then I took Frank over to say hello. They got on famously and that was that. The funny thing is that Frank was only at that event because Kevin’s wife cried off sick. If she hadn’t he’d probably have never met Christine.’
The couple – who married in front of guests including Holly Willoughby, Phillip Schofield and Ant and Dec in 2015 – are now up to their eyeballs in nappies and sleepsuits. Their time is stretched to the limit: Frank is largely in Derby, where he’s managing Derby County, and he co-parents his daughters Luna, now 13, and Isla, 11, from his relationship with model Elen Rivas. When he’s at home, he pulls his weight. ‘He’s smitten,’ Christine laughs. ‘He changes her nappies, plays with her and is a brilliant dad.’
In fact, she recently admitted on Loose Women that being a stepmother for nine years has been the perfect dry run for starting a family. ‘For all of the concerns people might have about taking on that role, the fact that he had two girls, quite grown up at the stage that our baby was born, [meant that] I’ve seen him be brilliant,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen him be a great dad, I’ve seen the girls evolve into lovely young women. I think he’s done that well, so I have no worries when it comes to my little one.’
Christine insists that she and Frank were in no rush to have a child of their own. ‘People would ask all the time about children and didn’t seem to believe me when I said, “If it happens, it happens.” They thought I was hiding some kind of heartache. I wasn’t! Having a baby wasn’t something I actively thought about until last year, when we started trying.’
But I have to pull her up short. Can she really not have thought about babies for nearly a decade of a relationship? Apparently not. ‘I was happy in my marriage and that was enough. When we did start trying I was conscious of my age but I’d ruled out IVF after seeing too many friends go through such a gruelling process. People assume that’s what happened on account of my age. But I became pregnant the old-fashioned way immediately – I wasn’t expecting it to be so quick. I’d been feeling a bit weird for a day or two, so I did a test and while I was waiting for the result I was distracted by housework and got stuck into the vacuuming. Eventually I wandered back to check – I was astonished to find it was positive.’
We all like a tidy house but I can’t imagine even decluttering guru Marie Kondo cares that much about cleaning, especially when a thin blue line might be appearing on a pregnancy stick. She pauses and asks, a little self-consciously: ‘Is that weird?’ I tell her it is. Really weird, in fact. Christine laughs: ‘Well, as I said, I didn’t think I was pregnant, I just tested anyway. Once I found out I can tell you I stopped the hoovering.’
She’d hoped for a natural birth but when doctors told her she needed a caesarean due to a low-lying placenta, she took it in her stride. ‘Frank was with me and when the doctor said, A moment from now you’ll become a mum”, I burst into tears. Frank cut the umbilical cord and then this tiny red baby was placed in my arms. I thought my heart would burst.’
Baby Patsy’s upbringing in affluent West London will be a far cry from her mother’s childhood in Newtownards, County Down, during the Troubles. ‘My life was shaped by it,’ Christine has said. ‘There were soldiers on the streets. One of my earliest memories is being scooped out of the bath by my mum because soldiers were at the door saying there was a bomb. When I was 14 I was playing outside when a car bomb went off [July 1993 in Roma’s Bar] about a mile away and I was covered in dust and rubble. It ripped the heart out of the community; it was devastating.’
Her mum Mina was a bookkeeper, her dad Fred was in a band managed by former X Factor judge Louis Walsh, and was often out playing gigs at pubs. Her younger sister Nicola was her best friend. Christine was still a teenager when she talked her way into a job with Belfast radio station Citybeat. That led to jobs at BBC Northern Ireland, and the presenter gig on the BBC Two daytime show Let Me Entertain You in 2006, before being parachuted in to the co-host slot with Chiles on The One Show after regular host Myleene Klass went into early labour. The pair’s chemistry set viewers’ tongues wagging with ‘are-they-aren’t-they?’ speculation (they weren’t). Three years later, Chiles and Christine were lured by ITV to launch a revamped breakfast show, Daybreak. But it was panned and just over a year later they were replaced. Presenting gigs followed (including Dancing on Ice), along with a year in New York with Frank, during his stint with New York City FC. Since 2016 she’s been one of Loose Women’s permanent anchors.
For a woman who was once seen as the brightest star in TV, has her career taken second place to her home life? ‘I’m not terribly ambitious,’ she says. ‘Every so often someone in a suit from the production team will sit me down for “The Talk” and ask me what I want to do next, and I never have an answer.’ She acknowledges that she has the luxury of being able to pick and choose when she works. ‘I love broadcasting, but I’ve never had a game plan, whereas Frank needs to know what he’s doing and when.’
But the past year has had its stresses, not least stalker Christof King, who made Christine’s life ‘a misery’. He was given a nine-month suspended sentence in July 2018 after sending her ‘sinister and dark’ tweets, and turning up at her house, forcing her to hide in her bedroom. She’s been advised not to talk about him in the media as it could stir things up again. She grins apologetically and simply says, ‘That’s all behind us now.’
Today Christine is looking forwards, and her dreams for Patricia are those of any parent. ‘It will be lovely if she has a good brain, but I don’t need an Einstein. Good nature and kindness will take her where she needs to go. Having said that, when she’s kicking her legs in the bath, Frank jokes that he might yet get the footballer he’s always wanted.’
Loose Women airs weekdays at 12.30pm on ITV. Watch out for Christine on Lorraine next month, weekdays from 8.30am on ITV