Claire Sweeney (43): 'My baby is a gift that has been sent from heaven'
Actress Claire Sweeney has achieved her dream of motherhood at the age of 43. She tells Gabrielle Fagan about her joy and her hopes for the future.
Claire Sweeney is happy to report that miracles can happen and that the baby she is expecting is one of them.
She's 43 - an age most women would assume motherhood had passed them by - and will give birth this month to a son.
"Finding out I was pregnant was a gorgeous shock - it truly shows that God works in mysterious ways and I think it was just meant to be," says the Liverpudlian actress, who originally found fame on Channel Four's Brookside and has since become a well-loved TV presenter, Loose Women guest panellist, and starred in West End musicals.
"Actually, I always thought I'd have a little girl, so that was another surprise but a lovely one. I've thought about calling him Gabriel, because he's my little angel sent from heaven, but I'll wait until I see him to finally decide."
Even the fact that her personal life is far from settled - she and the baby's father, marketing consultant Daniel Reilly (29) broke off their engagement at Christmas shortly before she discovered she was pregnant in January - doesn't appear to have dented her obvious contentment.
"Dan has been brilliant, he couldn't have been better, he's so supportive. He will be there at the birth, which will be in Liverpool as I have a support system there - my mum and his mum. I feel very lucky. I'm just enjoying these last few weeks before the birth because I know I won't have much time to myself after that," says Sweeney, who's said that she's content to wait and see what the future holds for her and Reilly's relationship. The couple had been together since 2011.
"It will be a Caesarean at the end of September but not because I'm 'too posh to push!' It's on medical advice for a number of reasons including my age and the fact that currently he's a breach baby, although he could turn before the birth."
Her pregnancy joy is even more profound, she reveals, because she suffered two miscarriages, one at 12 weeks in 2012 and another shortly after conceiving in May last year. "As every woman knows, miscarriages are terribly upsetting. Mine were reasonably early and I can only imagine how hard it is for women who have them late on," she says.
"While I was very fatalistic about my first one and just told myself the pregnancy wasn't meant to be, the second one was so much harder. You can't help thinking, 'Am I ever going to have a baby?'.
"But I've always wanted to be a mum and despite my age and the miscarriages, I stayed really philosophical and open-minded about it and felt fate would play a part. I had a friend who got pregnant at 46, and I knew it could happen and it did. Although there are reports that I had IVF, I didn't, I just conceived naturally."
While Sweeney now looks relaxed and glowing, she confesses she found the first three months of her pregnancy a tense and worrying time.
"I was really scared and anxious that I might lose this baby. I wrapped myself up in cotton wool because of the previous miscarriages and wouldn't do anything, barely even going out. I also had to wait for the results of tests for any abnormalities. So all in all, it was a nerve-racking time," she says.
"In the end, the loveliest thing was seeing my bump growing and feeling that first movement, which gave me confidence. Seeing the baby's face properly on the 3D scan was fantastic."
She's looked after her health throughout with advice from experts at the first online antenatal fitness platform, Results With Bump, on which she appears exercising and doing yoga.
"When you're pregnant for the first time, you're not really sure what you can or cannot do as, above everything, you want to protect this precious baby. I wanted to exercise but didn't know what or how much," says Sweeney, whose trouble-free pregnancy has only been marred by shoulder pain and carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrists, the latter suffered by around 60pc of pregnant women.
"The team calmed my nerves and eased me into a workout which really helped improve my sleep, posture and relieved my back strain and gave me advice about nutrition to minimise tiredness."
It all seems enviably organised and within three months of the birth, Sweeney will, baby-in-tow, return to work, appearing in pantomime in Aladdin in her hometown of Liverpool.
But while it seems as though she is taking the whole life-change in her stride, she admits: "I don't know how motherhood is going to change me and how I will be on the other side of this.
"Anyway, I'm so lucky with my job as it's not nine-to-five. I can take the baby to the theatre and will be staying at home with my family, so they can help out."
Down-to-earth and patently eagerly anticipating her new role in life she says: "I've always believed in going with the flow in life and don't think you can make too many plans as you never know what's going to happen. It's exciting and I will just wait and see what happens and cope with it."
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