Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Woman 2 Woman: Gillian Porter's baby joy was shrouded in sadness

Over the past two years UTV's Gillian Porter has had her second baby and lost her mother to cancer. Now, back on our screens, she talks to Karen Ireland about coping with great joy and devastating tragedy

Ulster Television's Gillian Porter with her children, Zara and Sam.

ONE of the last things Gillian Porter's mum said to her before she died at the end of last year was, "you're a good un".

And she was right.

Gillian's bright and cheery screen presence isn't just for the cameras.

In person she is bubbly, friendly and full of life.

And one of the reasons for her infectious enthusiasm is her evident love of motherhood.

Her eyes widen and so does the smile across her face every time she mentions her babies - two-year-old Zara and her five-month-old son Sam.

And she mentions them a lot.

"I just love being a mum. It is everything I thought it would be and more," she says.

She readily admits that her two children are so close in age because she came late to motherhood.

"I always wanted children, particularly when I was younger but I hadn't met the right person.

"When I did, I didn't want to waste any more time.

"My biological clock wasn't ticking so much as thumping so loudly it couldn't be ignored," reveals the 38-year-old.

Zara was born two years after Gillian married the 'right person' at a quiet no-fuss wedding in Oxford. "Again my age came into play. I felt past the big meringue affair and just wanted something small and intimate," she explains.

When Zara was just 20-months- old a delighted Gillian realised she was pregnant again.

But her joy was tinged with sadness as her beloved mum was terminally ill with a rare brain cancer.

"Mum was very ill when I found out I was pregnant. But she knew what was going on and at one stage said 'you're a good un', obviously referring to the closeness of my children.

"I worried about how I would feel when the baby was born, as mum wouldn't be there, and that made Sam's arrival bitter sweet.

"I feel she is around us and can see Sam when she wants.

"It was horrendous watching mum die, particularly in the last couple of days.

"In the end her release was a blessing as none of us could bear to watch her suffer any more."

Always close to the family she was brought up with in Coleraine, the death of their mother brought Gillian even closer to her sister and best friend Sharon, who lives in Oxford.

"I miss her terribly and I know she felt very removed and distant when mum was ill but we comfort each other. We speak every day on the phone and if we didn't there would be something wrong," she explains.

"She has a daughter too and we know mum would want us to be OK for the sake of our children. They definitely keep you going."

Just back from her maternity leave and working several nights from five to midnight as well as at weekends, it is hard to imagine anything would stop Gillian in her tracks.

"I just get on with it," she says modestly.

"Thankfully I am very laid back and as long as the children are happy then I am.

"In an ideal world I would love to be at home with them all the time but too many bills make this an impossibility and if I have to work I am glad that it's at something that I enjoy.

"I'm lucky too as my husband is a great support at home.

"He is very much a hands-on dad and on the nights that I am working he just takes over with the children when he comes home.

"It might seem strange to others but it works really well for us and during the week I get to be with the kids all day."

Watching the newsreader and continuity announcer with her children it wouldn't be too hard a stretch to imagine Gillian surrounded by more of them - something I put to her.

"I would love more children," comes the wistful reply.

"Maybe if I was younger I'd go ahead but for now I just count my blessings. I have two wonderful, happy and healthy children and I wouldn't want to tempt fate.

"If I've learnt anything in the past couple of years it's never to take anything for granted.

"I think the whole work-life balance is all about finding something that works for you.

"I try as far as possible to make my time with the kids quality time. For instance, Zara doesn't have a lot of toys. I'm certainly not out every week buying her the latest thing.

"I like her to use her imagination and create play as much as possible. She loves singing and dancing."

And, right on cue, said daughter takes centre stage on a platform at UTV and demonstrates her new routine.

Perhaps this is a future TV star in the making?

If she takes after her mum, she'll be a good un' whatever she decides to do.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk