Kellie Bright is usually one to stay away from the limelight, but couldn't hide her joy as she announced the happy news that she is pregnant with her third child in an exclusive interview with OK!
The 44 year old EastEnders actress has opened up on her "rollercoaster" IVF journey in an open and honest interview exclusively for OK! VIP Club Members. In the rare interview, Kellie discusses her "miracle" child as she poses with her gorgeous family.
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Kellie rarely opens up about her home life with hubby Paul Stocker, 38, and their children Freddy, nine, and Gene, four.
But this time she has a good reason. While she is thrilled to show off her bump in our exclusive family shoot, she is also keen to open up about her IVF journey to make more women aware of the realities of trying to conceive later in life.
“I want to be open and honest about this, because I think it’s important for younger women to understand,” she says on our Zoom chat from her EastEnders dressing room.
“It’s important for women to know that, yes, you can have children in your forties and, yes, you can be lucky and do it naturally. But for a lot of us it doesn’t work that way, so I wouldn’t suggest leaving it late by choice.”
Kellie conceived Freddy naturally and had IVF to conceive Gene after she and Paul struggled the second time around. Three extra embryos were frozen for potential use later – and following failed attempts at pregnancy with two of them, the final one will now become the couple’s third child.
“It’s been a roller-coaster,” says Kellie, who is due in August. “But I don’t want this interview to read like a sob story. We know how lucky we’ve been compared with some families.”
Here, Kellie talks about the process, reveals her sons’ reactions to her news and tells of how she collapsed in tears when she thought her last chance at having a baby had failed…
EXCLUSIVE TO OK! VIP CLUB
Kellie, first of all huge congratulations on such lovely news!
Thank you! It’s going to surprise quite a few people. Only because there’s an assumption when you’ve had two and when you’re my age that you’re done…
So tell us, why now, at 44?
To set the scene, I really struggled getting pregnant with my second child. I was 34 when we naturally conceived Freddy but we couldn’t get pregnant again. We tried for a long time and we got to a point, around the time I was doing Strictly, where we started to investigate IVF. I was 39 by this point and we went for it. It was successful. We managed to get four good, strong embryos. One became Gene, the other three went into the freezer.
Sounds like it was all smooth sailing!
It’s not a walk in the park but we were so lucky it worked first time. I knew the second Gene was born I’d want to use the other embryos one day. Knowing we had them, we knew there was a possibility for another baby. I’ve always wanted a big family but because I had Freddy at 35, I’d let go of that dream. But when we went down the IVF route we found ourselves in a position we never thought we’d be in.
So you always knew you’d try for a third?
Absolutely. And it has nothing to do with the boys not being enough – they absolutely are. It’s just I never felt like I was done. I always had an itch, a desire to have more. My husband and I went round in circles for a couple of years deciding whether or not to just go for the third. I have a demanding full-time job and the reality of having a baby and a toddler within all of that is overwhelming, and we weren’t quite ready. But I had such an emotional attachment to those embryos. I know they’re cells but they have the potential to be another Gene! I couldn’t let it go. Eventually, we decided to go ahead at the end of 2019… and then Covid-19 happened.
And that changed everything…
I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Suddenly, Paul and I were having conversations about not having more kids. Everything felt so uncertain. But by the end of the first lockdown, we did a complete 180. Having that precious time at home with our boys, doing simple things, we knew we had to try to make it happen. So we waited for the clinics to reopen and started a frozen embryo transfer, which is less invasive than the initial IVF and only involved implanting the embryos.
So who did you tell at this point?
I actually told my bosses at EastEnders straight away that we were going for it. I knew I’d need time off and they were utterly brilliant.
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And when did the journey officially start?
In September. But the first two embryos didn’t work. So this baby inside me now was the last one we had – the last chance of a pregnancy, because at 44 we were not going through IVF again. I believe it was meant to be. But those three months, between September and November, were a real roller-coaster.
How did you feel when the first two failed?
After the first one, I was philosophical. After the second one, I started to panic. And with the third one, I didn’t think that had worked either because I had a bleed two days before I was due to take the pregnancy test. It was significant enough for me to be in floods of tears with my husband cradling me.
What was the bleeding?
It wasn’t ever really explained but it wasn’t implantation and it didn’t affect the pregnancy. It stopped quite suddenly so I still did the test, even though in my heart I thought it hadn’t worked. So when it said “pregnant” I almost fell to the floor. I was so shocked and thrilled, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I ran downstairs to Paul. I just stood crying – really crying – and he couldn’t understand a word I was saying! It took my breath away. I knew it was my last chance, so the fact it was a positive was so unbelievably wonderful. A truly wonderful, crazy life moment.
And how do you feel physically?
I feel alright, considering I’m 44! I feel a bit tired. I haven’t been sick. When I look back at my pregnant self the first time, I did feel different. But I was 10 years younger and I didn’t have two children to look after!
Have you told the boys?
We didn’t until we were past the 12-week scan. Freddy had asked twice before we’d told him if I had a baby in my tummy. From around week eight or nine onwards, I did look bloated. Twice he asked me and twice I lied to him! I felt awful! We ended up telling them separately. Freddy’s reaction was, “Oh, Mummy, they make a lot of noise. We’ve got Gene! Gene’s enough!” He also wanted to know how the baby got there. We ended up having a conversation about the sperm and the egg – which was actually OK!
And how did Gene take the news?
Gene is wilful, stubborn and headstrong, and when he’s ready to take on an idea of something he will – but not before. We told him, “Mummy has a baby in her tummy,” and he just said, “No.” And that was that! I left it for a couple of days and then he came up to me, having not said another word about it, and he said, “Mummy! I’ve got four babies in my tummy too!” And since then, he’s been very sweet. Lots of kissing my tummy. They’re both very engaged with it.
Do you have an inkling when it comes to the baby’s gender?
Freddy thinks it’s a boy, Gene thinks it’s a girl… but I don’t know! I’m leaning towards another boy but that’s because I’ve had two boys. A lot of people would love us to have a girl, which would be great. But it would be lovely to have three boys too. We’re not going to find out. It’s our last go, so we’ll wait for the big reveal. I didn’t know with Freddy and that moment giving birth, finding out the sex, was lovely.
Are you nervous about going through labour all over again?
Thankfully, both my labours were pretty straightforward. I have no horror stories – no more than the regular pain most women feel! I’m very laid-back, I haven’t made a birthing plan, I feel like you need to go with the flow. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can have a natural birth and on the other side of it I’ll be jumping for joy as I’ll never have to do it again!
Your age will get people talking. How do you feel about having children later in life?
First of all, if I was a man having my third child at 44, no one would bat an eyelid. And don’t forget my husband is much younger than me. He’s in his thirties, so he’s still running around after the kids, which is great! We met when I was 31 and I didn’t want to jump straight into having kids, I wanted us to enjoy each other, to travel and have adventures. We had Freddy when I was 35 and if I could’ve mapped out my life and picked my ages, I would’ve finished having my babies at the end of my thirties. But who gets to pick their life like that? We had fertility struggles we didn’t expect and had to just deal with it.
If Gene had been conceived naturally, would you have stopped there?
I think so, yes. But I knew when we had those frozen embryos, we had to give it a go. My friend said I’m a trailblazer! But I’m not. Plus, I’m using a far younger egg. It was frozen when I was 39, so I’m a 44-year-old vessel for that egg. My risks would’ve been much higher if I’d had IVF from scratch now. I don’t want women seeing people like me having babies in my forties and thinking, “Oh, if they can do it, I have loads of time!” It might be OK… but it might not. I hate the term “geriatric mother” for pregnancies over 35 but there’s a reason for the label. I don’t want to be seen as a woman with a magic womb.
How have your family and friends reacted?
Most of them know the situation and it wasn’t a surprise that we wanted to go for a third child. I hid it for as long as I could at EastEnders but I’ve got so big now I can’t any more! A few of my close friends there knew about the whole journey. I spoke to Lacey Turner [who plays Stacey Slater] a lot and told her early on as she was pregnant too – we had lovely chats.
How would you sum up your journey?
Every baby is a miracle, be it an IVF journey or a drunken one-night stand that results in a pregnancy. And that’s how I’ve felt about all three pregnancies. They’re all my little miracles – but people need to know that as you get older, it’s often a more difficult journey. And I know I’ve been one of the lucky ones.
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