Sophie Ellis-Bextor

The singer talks about her family

The fact that my mother [Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis] was on television every week while I was young was occasionally awkward, and often frustrating. My school friends were quite wowed by it, and it had a pretty potent currency, I suppose, because they watched it, and her, every week. But certain people would accuse me of saying things, or acting in a particular way, simply because she was on TV. It made me feel quite impotent.

By the time I was a teenager, my mother was no longer on Blue Peter. Teenagers tend to live very much in the day, and so I was hardly ever reminded of it, fortunately. The subject only came up again when I started dating boys. They would tell me how they used to fancy my mum back then, or, worse, still fancy her today. It's not really something a daughter wants to hear about her mother.

My parents separated when I was four. It wasn't the smoothest of divorces, but then as my mother always says, you can't have a passionate marriage without a passionate divorce. But it's to their credit that it never affected me too badly, because whatever they were going through themselves, it didn't affect their parenting of me.

I was an only child, but then my parents resettled with different partners, and I am now one of six. We are all very different, but I love having such a big family. We don't do too many collective gatherings – I'll very often celebrate Christmas twice, with both sets of families – but it is nice when a whole bunch of us gets together. Last Christmas, there were 18 of us round the table. And, no, it wasn't a disaster.

My mother had three children, but she wanted a fourth. It never happened, though: she had 10 miscarriages. She kept them from me at the time, because she thought I was too young. We sat down and talked about it much later, and I felt so very sorry for her. It was all so breathtakingly sad.

Towards the end of my first pregnancy with my son Sonny [now seven], I developed pre-eclampsia, that really glamorous condition where you get puffy ankles and a puffy face. It's not much fun. He was born two months prematurely, and was absolutely tiny. We spent a lot of time in hospital.

Sonny had meningitis at four months old. I remember that morning vividly. I woke up at 6am on a Saturday, aware that he was late for his feed. I went to him, and he was the hottest thing ever, his feet blocks of ice. I didn't have a clue what to do. We rushed him to the hospital, they pumped him full of Calpol, and then took him off for a lumbar puncture, which I wasn't allowed to attend. It was my very worst experience as a mother.

My second son, Kit [now two], was also very premature, so we had to get used to even more time in hospitals. It's very sobering.

Two premature babies was not a genetic thing; we were just unlucky. Hopefully we won't be next time, and we definitely want more children. How many? Well, if another pregnancy ends prematurely, then maybe we'll have to draw a line under it, but we always did like the idea, perhaps, of four. But don't get me started on that just now. Let me get through the next one first, and then we'll see.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor's new album, Make a Scene, is out now

Nick Duerden

The GuardianTramp

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