SARAH Stirk is the first to admit that, so far, 2021 has been quite the rollercoaster.
The first life-changing moment happened this summer, when the Sky Sports Golf presenter came out publicly as lesbian, having struggled with her sexuality during her 20s and then opting to keep it private professionally.
Sky Sports’ Sarah Stirk on coming out, expecting her first child and finding her voiceCredit: David Cummings
“It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable,” she says today. “But my big thing over the last few years has been trying to be more honest, transparent and authentic.
“I want to be completely myself, because for so many years I wasn’t at all.”
And now Sarah has another personal announcement to share – at 43, she’s pregnant with her first child, a baby boy due this winter, thanks to an IVF journey she embarked on alone after splitting from long-term partner Lou three years ago.
“I knew I wanted to be a mum and, because of my age, I kind of had to get on with it,” she says. “I didn’t really want to wait any longer.”
It’s been a “brutal” process, but then Sarah is used to showing strength in the face of adversity.
Once a promising tennis star, she was devastated when a shoulder injury killed off the dream in her late-teens.
Determined to carve out a career in sport regardless, she went on to complete a sports journalism degree at Loughborough University and began her broadcasting career at Manchester United’s MUTV. She’s spent the last eight years travelling the
globe for Sky as one of the most knowledgeable and respected golf presenters on screen.
She says: “The shoulder injury was a pretty early lesson for me that there are going to be setbacks, and I learned a lot about resilience. Life is complicated, but maintaining a good attitude is what is in our control.”
Wise words. We sat down with Sarah to talk about her decision to come out and going it alone as a mum.
Sarah, congratulations! How has the pregnancy been so far?
From about week six I suffered with debilitating nausea, to the point where I just couldn’t work. Now I can focus more on being pregnant, I’m nervous but mostly super-excited.
Did you always want to be a mum?
I think in my 20s I’d wonder: “OK, how’s this going to work?” And it just felt like a bit of a minefield.
But as I got older, I definitely wanted to be a mum and knowing the special bond I’ve got with my parents [Ken and Anne] I wanted that with kids of my own.
Do you worry about being judged for doing this on your own?
Not really, because it just feels cool and nobody’s batted an eyelid. What’s normal in today’s world anyway? People just have to get over it if they’ve got an issue because, well, it’s life isn’t it?
How did you find the IVF process?
I’m lucky that it worked first time for me as the whole thing is just horrendous. After the initial excitement of “my god, I’m pregnant!” I was really quite low in the first trimester and
I think those effects are heightened with the IVF drugs. I feel strongly about passing on advice, because you can become a number, a statistic, and I don’t think the emotional care is brilliant.
Sarah snapping a selfie with her mum Anne
Is that why you’re speaking out?
Yes. The difficulty of IVF emotionally and physically is something that’s not publicised enough. A lot of the advice and help you need just isn’t there.
This is your life, and you want to feel like [the medical team] are completely on board with you. Having been through the journey for quite a few years now, it’s not nice.
You initially tried to have a baby a few years ago with your ex, didn’t you?
That’s right. We left it a bit late, but we tried with Lou when she was 42.
We started with IUI [intrauterine insemination, where sperm is inserted directly into the womb] after being given bad advice.
We should have gone straight to IVF, because IUI at that age was pointless. We went to IVF and it didn’t work. It’s pretty heartbreaking, even now.
How long were you together?
Fifteen years and we’re still close – we’re not together, but we haven’t quite figured that one out. She’s got mixed emotions, because she feels happy for me, but she’s also still very sad.
Will you be open with your son about the story behind his arrival?
Definitely. The sperm donor isn’t anonymous, so he’ll have the option when he’s older to seek out his dad.
Sarah pictured with fellow sports reporter Georgie Bingham and presenter Naga Munchetty
You came out publicly earlier this year after previously keeping your sexuality private. Why now?
I never really felt the need to go public, because I’m quite a private person. But then I thought, I was in this community, but wasn’t really part of it and I should be proud of who I am.
Do you feel a responsibility to help increase lesbian visibility in public life?
I do. I love my job – it’s given me great opportunities, so why shouldn’t I give a little back and be a voice?
If I can help young girls who are struggling like I was then that’s brilliant.
When did you come out to your family?
At about 26. I had a confusing few years where I wasn’t sure. I’d split up from a boyfriend and that was kind of it.
I wish we’d had more of a conversation at that point, but I just tried to downplay it. I’m very lucky to have the parents I do. I never had anything to fear.
Have you thought about dating as a single mum?
No. It’s been quite a tough few years personally, and without being too clichéd, I needed to grow and become a better person.
I have this belief that everything will work out. Whatever happens relationship-wise, I’m not pushing, I’m not searching. What will be, will be.
Credits – Make-up: Aimee Adams using Clinique Hair: Dino Pereira using Kiehl’s Since 1851 Magic Elixir Styling: Kate Barbour Sarah wears: body, River Island
Sarah reporting on the 2016 Ryder cup