SHE is the all-new smiling face of lunchtime television.
But away from the cameras, Steph McGovern has detailed the horrific night terrors that led her to undergo therapy.
The former BBC Breakfast star, 38, gave birth to her daughter last November — and has had terrifying nightmares since then, fearing she has lost the tot in her sleep.
As her new daytime show, Steph’s Packed Lunch, debuts tomorrow, she says: “I don’t ever actually feel stressed but the way it manifests in me is at night.
“I have crazy dreams and awful night terrors.
“When I was younger, it would be worrying about school stuff. I once went out of the door and actually went to school — in my sleep, in my uniform — at two in the morning.
“As I’ve got older, they have become more vivid. And since having a baby, I will regularly wake up and think I’ve lost her.
“I imagine she’s in bed with me and I’ve dropped her, or I’ve lost her. Quite a few times, my partner has found me on the floor scrabbling around under things or in cupboards, looking for the baby.
“I’m asleep — my brain isn’t working enough to know she actually is there, because I’m looking at things and I’m not seeing what’s really there.
“I’m just seeing whatever my brain is tricking me into.
“It’s really quite scary. And lately the night terrors are of not being able to do my job.
“Last night, I thought I was live on the studio floor and saw a man exposing himself to me, pressing himself up naked against the glass. It was awful.
“So I leapt out of bed and ran over to the wall and was shouting, ‘That’s indecent exposure! I could have you arrested for that!’
“My poor partner woke up to find me screaming away, and had to calm me down. It’s horrendous.”
The disturbing dreams led Steph, who is from Middlesbrough, to arrange counselling sessions.
While she hasn’t been “cured”, her therapist introduced her to coping mechanisms and instilled a new bedtime routine to minimise any dark thoughts.
Steph says: “Everything now revolves around the baby.
“The thoughts aren’t rational — it’s totally irrational. But it’s something I have had help for.
“I’ve seen a therapist about it. I didn’t go to the doctor because I thought they’d just say, ‘Go to a therapist’.
“So I decided myself to go to a therapist to try to knock it on the head. It only really flares up when things are stressful — and it has really helped me.
“It’s all to do with how you go to bed at night, about your peace of mind when you go to sleep.
“It’s about not looking at your phone, not reading terrible stories or watching the news.
“More often than not, if I read the headlines in the newspapers just as I go to bed, there’s a story about babies or some tragic thing — then inevitably your mind plays tricks with you.
“You imagine yourself in that situation, and in my sleep that’s kind of what happens.
“So I have tried to change my bedtime routine a bit and it has helped.”
Last summer the popular presenter revealed she was pregnant with her TV executive girlfriend.
That prompted a flurry of supportive messages from fans, colleagues and the wider gay community. While social media users are often quick to criticise, happily Steph — who is not publicly naming her baby — has received no trolling over her relationship and the pregnancy.
She adds: “I had no reaction to the fact I was having another baby with another woman. Not that I saw, anyway.
“I think because I’m not going on and on about it — I just live my life and am fairly private — people are genuinely interested in when people are having babies.
“And on the whole, people don’t really care where the baby has come from or anything like that.
“People are just giddy about a baby. Obviously, I’ve been badly trolled in the past. I got so much abuse when I first started because of my accent and things.
“But you can’t get everyone to like you and I’ve always had mates who have said, ‘Well, WE like you!’. So that’s all that matters, really.”
At the end of last year it was announced the star was leaving the BBC for a slot on Channel 4.
With her programme originally due to air from a jazzed-up studio in Leeds in the spring, lockdown meant Steph was instead forced to present live from her Yorkshire home.
But even there, filming was curtailed following a complaint from a curtain-twitching neighbour about disruption to the street outside.
The new show combines celebrity guests, true-life features and live cooking slots.
“I get to eat hot food at the end of each show,” Steph laughs. “It’s great!”
Former Hollyoaks actress Gemma Atkinson, rapper Lady Leshurr and Irish telly presenter Vogue Williams will make regular appearances alongside the host.
Like most new mums, Steph has faced a battle to lose the baby weight.
And she had to do it in lockdown . . . and with the prospect of live TV looming.
She says: “I was actually the fittest I’ve ever been just before I gave birth. The problem is now.
“I’ve developed lockdown lard. I’ve put more weight on since lockdown than I did from the baby.
“Don’t get me wrong — I am self-conscious and now gyms are open I am trying to go along.
“I’m never going to be a Skinny Minnie. I just want to feel comfortable in my clothes so I’m not looking at myself at the camera going, ‘Oh God, you can see my pot belly’ and trying to pull my shirt down.
“I am like most people — conscious of how I look but not to the extreme of trying to look a size zero and immaculate.
“I just want to feel all right in myself.”
Steph has stayed mates with her former BBC Breakfast colleagues, and the gang are in regular contact via WhatsApp.
So what does Steph make of her old chum Naga Munchetty getting a ticking-off from Beeb bosses for moonlighting with a series of NatWest business adverts?
It was Naga’s second warning after she also appeared in a corporate video for the car maker Aston Martin.
Steph says with a sigh: “I’m still in contact with all my BBC mates.
“We’re all very good friends and very supportive of each other.
“We always have been. It is a tough time for the BBC and for the people who work for the BBC.
“I’m not surprised by anything these days because we are in a time when there’s so much going on. Nothing shocks me any more.”
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