Suzanne Paul Reveals: "I'm a Mum At Last"

December 10, 2007, 1:20 pmnewideanz

After several failed IVF attempts and a lot of heartbreak, Suzanne Paul opens her heart to New Idea about the joy of being a mum.


Inside Suzanne Paul's normally tranquil Auckland home, a strange screaming sound is disturbing the peace. The abrasive sound emanating from the infomercial queen's stereo is rock'n'roll, but not as Suzanne nor Duncan Wilson, her husband of two years, know it.

Adjusting to modern music is just one change Suzanne has made in opening her rented home to Duncan's three teenage kids for the school holidays, and though she doesn't enjoy the violent assault on her hearing, she's delighted about finally having children in her life.

Suzanne has long harboured dreams of becoming a mum, but her hopes were dashed after eight failed IVF attempts. Heartbroken, the Dancing With the Stars winner focused instead on her career in marketing and television. But now Suzanne is finally able to put her maternal instincts to good use with her stepchildren, twins Hamish and Rachael, 17, and Zoe, 14.

The Napier siblings are from Duncan's first marriage, and although Suzanne, 50, knew he had children when they met, it's only been recently that she has been able to forge a relationship with them.

'It's actually quite a good age to get to know them - they're very chatty,' says Suzanne. 'Friends of mine have teenagers, and I've seen a lot of not very nice teenagers and you haven't been able to get two words out of them. All they seem to do is grunt when you ask them a question! I thought they might be like that but they're not, they're really chatty kids, you can have a good conversation with them.

'They've been brought up very well,' she adds. 'They've got a good mother.'

Energetic Suzanne, who is enjoying increased popularity in the wake of her Dancing With the Stars victory, is committed to being the best stepmother she can be.

'I try to keep up to date with music and fashion and what's on TV so we've always got things to talk about,' she says.'The more time we spend together, the more we relax.'

And if anyone knew how Hamish, Rachael and Zoe would feel, having to adjust to a second home, it was Suzanne.

'My parents split up when I was quite young,' she explains. 'When I was a teen I lived with Dad but Mum always let me know, "If you want to come here, there's enough room."

'We've always made sure that wherever we went it was big enough for them if they wanted to come. It's important that they know there's room for them.'

While adjusting to being a stepmother is not without its challenges, it's a welcome transition for Suzanne, who had given up on being a mother long ago.

'When I was in my 20s and 3'0s I wasn't aware of a woman's biological clock,' she recalls. 'I didn't have a man but people would say, "It doesn't matter because you can have IVF now."

'I never panicked because everyone said, "You can do that IVF." I didn't meet my first husband until I was 40, and I thought, "I'm ready at last, I'll have a baby." I went to the clinic and they said, "It doesn't work like that." The chances at my age were 13 per cent, and every year it got less and less. I had eight treatments and it nearly ruined me physically and mentally. It was soul-destroying.'

Suzanne says the stress and heartbreak of IVF certainly contributed to the disintegration of her first marriage, to Dean Kilworth.

'All I thought about was babies,' she recalls. 'I had big trunks of baby clothes and toys. It's only in the past few years I've given them away. I was always so convinced it was going to happen so I kept buying things.

'I stopped work and I'd cry every day. I went into a deep depression for five or six months. I couldn't find any joy in life, which is not my personality at all,' Suzanne says of the difficult time.

'It was a couple of years before I could be around anybody with a baby. I came to terms with it. Eventually I could hold someone's baby without bursting into tears.'

The brave star put the heartbreak behind her, thinking that was the end of her hopes of motherhood. However, becoming stepmother to Hamish, Rachael and Zoe has given her another chance.

'Maybe it helped me being on TV and being famous, they think they already knew me,' she suggests. 'Hopefully I'm the sort of celeb it's not too embarrassing to have as a stepmum.'

Duncan admits that he was worried that his kids would be intimidated by Suzanne's celebrity status, especially after experiencing how members of the public react in her presence.

'They made the comment last time we were out at Foodtown,' Duncan recalls. 'I think they were quite astonished because they were a few steps behind us and they could hear as people go past us, whispering, "Oh, that's Suzanne Paul."

'I think it was a bit weird for them.'

On one of Suzanne and Duncan's visits to Napier to see the children, they found themselves attracting the sort of attention they don't often get in Auckland.

'Last time we went to Napier, as we were walking up the street we were being followed by a group,' Suzanne says. 'We went into a small jewellers and the crowd - there was about 20 of them - all followed us in. We filled the whole shop. They were asking, "Can we have pictures? Can we have an autograph?" I said to the shopkeeper, "I'll take them all outside."

'I think that was a bit peculiar for the kids. They have said to me, it must be weird everybody knowing your name.'

But being associated with someone in the public eye has pitfalls. Duncan uses the rebellious behaviour of high-profile youngsters as a precautionary tale for his own children.

'It's made them a little more aware of what it's like for people to be in the public eye,' he says.

Hamish, who is in Year 12 at Napier Boys' High School, says kids at school like to imitate Suzanne's distinctive English accent. And his twin Rachael also gets approached by classmates curious about her famous stepmother.

'People just ask if she's like she is on TV,' she says. 'And I say, yes, pretty much.'

Having spent part of their school holidays with Suzanne and Duncan, Hamish, Rachael and Zoe are looking forward to returning to Auckland again for another visit.

'I like having the teenagers around because I do have a lot of energy,' she says. 'I'm not the sort of 50-year-old who is sitting here with my knitting, going, "Oh God, there's teenagers running around." I'll say, "C'mon, let's go up to the mall. Let's all go here or do this."'

At the moment Suzanne and Duncan are concentrating on starting up a new business so she can pay back all the creditors who lost money when she went bankrupt.

But starting a new business does take time.

With the tenacity for which she has become known and loved, Suzanne is determined to keep moving forward, not just for her creditors, but for her family.

'When we get a bit more money we'd like to take the kids on holiday, maybe to Fiji or the Gold Coast,' she says. 'Right now our first priority is to try to earn enough money to pay our debts.'

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