Ellie Stoneley writes a wonderful blog, Mush Brained Ramblings, detailing life with her beautiful daughter, Hope. She became a mum for the first time at the age of 47.
THE MIRACLE OF HOPE…
It was a sunny afternoon and I was sitting in the garden outside the back door of my mother’s house when my mobile phone rang. I held my husband’s hand, took a deep breath and answered it, the lady from the IVF clinic established it was me, asked how I was and then said, “The test was positive, you’re pregnant, congratulations”. I started shaking and went very cold, then very hot and just sat there in shock … Roy started whooping and saying how happy I must be. I couldn’t cope with his exuberance so I walked inside and quietly told my mother the news. I didn’t feel ecstatic just totally stunned. Nobody gets pregnant through IVF the very first time, especially not the week before their 47th birthday, it couldn’t possibly be right. I got into the car and went to Boots and bought 4 pregnancy tests, went home and did 2 of them and sure enough the lines appeared just like in the instructions … there I was pregnant, 17 days after the microscopic 5 day old embryo had been transferred into me. At that point I smiled for the first time, and burst into tears.
The journey to that moment had been long and painful, my father had died, I had 2 miscarriages, a breast cancer scare, dubious cells in cervical smears, the small dot com I helped run, adored and had been utterly obsessed with had hit the wall taking with it all my savings and alot of my confidence, my immune system had decided to become over active and did odd things to my joints and lungs, and my husband was recovering from a traumatic time in his own life. I had also been told that due to my age I had virtually no chance of getting pregnant again, and that if I did it was very likely to end in miscarriage. We had agreed to try the IVF process, in truth, almost, so we could say, “we’ll we tried everything” when it didn’t work. Looking back perhaps it was fool hardy to embark on the process at all … but we did, with utter commitment. I started off by going to Ayurvedic clinic in India to rest and balance my immune system and prepare, having been totally ‘detoxed’, to be stuffed full of drugs… I came back to England and the journey began. Now, here I was, pregnant.
The next day I went to my own GP, a man I think the world of, he was amazed and delighted but counselled caution and said just not to do anything the books say don’t do, that way if I did miscarry I wouldn’t blame myself for eating tuna, drinking wine, cycling etc … he also said I’d done well to get that far but I needed to be aware of the high risk of the pregnancy failing. I left clutching my purple NHS baby book feeling rather crestfallen but deep down thinking he was probably right, I sent off for my ‘Pregnancy’ card and made an appointment with the hospital obstetric team.
A week later I had a bleed and rushed to the Daphne ward at the hospital, where they had helped me with my previous miscarriage, I had a scan and just waited for the midwife’s face to become a sympathetic mask and hear the sad news of the demise of my little Spaniard (I had the second part of my treatment and the embryo transfer in a Spanish clinic … so the little soul was ‘made in Spain’ … hence it’s pregnancy name of The Spaniard) … it didn’t happen, a tiny tiny but very insistent flicker appeared on the screen the smallest heart possible but determinedly beating. The love, awe and relief I felt is something I shall never forget. The pregnancy progressed against a back drop of fear on my part, fear something would inevitably go wrong but also a determination to do all I could to love that little Spaniard into staying and to keep myself fit and healthy. I walked for at least an hour, generally two every day, I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol, avoided caffeine, didn’t have Mr Whippy, tuna, salmon, any meat let alone rare meat, rejected fizzy drinks and didn’t travel out of Cambridge other than twice when I absolutely had to for client meetings in London.
I sat next to someone with shingles and ended up in hospital with a baby heart monitor round my tummy, I tripped and fell while walking on Grantchester meadows and ended up back in hospital with another monitor and then at 8 months when I was feeling a little more confident and daring to believe it was possible, just possibly possible that my Spaniard might be born it stopped moving inside me. I was in hospital for almost 3 weeks, the heart was still beating but we were scanned and monitored and watched over relentlessly and finally sent home just before Christmas … then 5 days later my own heart started doing rather odd things and after yet more scans for both of us in early January, a month early, my perfect baby daughter was born by Cesarean section. Even that morning I don’t think I really believed it was going to happen … then she was blue and grunting and whisked off into the SCBU and I was whisked somewhere else to have my heart monitored so for the first 48 hours we only saw each other briefly.
Then I was moved back to the ward, and thinking I had 12 hours before being reunited with my girl was preparing to painfully walk up to see her when a midwife pushed a small plastic fish tank like cot around the corner and left it by my bed … I thought it was for the baby when she was bought down and looked into it and saw a tiny person with a little nose tube all swaddled in a purple blanket, we looked at each other and we both cried … and then I smiled, I grinned and I wept tears of love and joy as I finally realised she was real, it happened, I was a mother … a 47 year old geriatric mother and here it was, a fish tank full of Hope.
Hope and I have spent a wonderful 10 months getting to know each other; she has become my constant chatty companion, my sidekick, my beautiful demanding, exhausting little friend. I have breastfed her successfully after a shaky start (she had to have her tongue untied and I needed a lesson from the wonderful La Leche League volunteers) and plan to continue til we’re both ready to stop. She is mischievous, she is utterly absorbed in the world and getting to understand it and she has been to conferences with me and as I write this is in California with me where she has played in the Pacific ocean and fallen in love with the taste of avocados.. We’re back to England next week to her father and to her precious Granby, my mother, herself a geriatric mother and now 85 years old has been my strength and my rock throughout the pregnancy and for Hope and I in her first months. If I can be half the mother she was then I’ll be doing something very right. So, there it is, the triumph of Hope over adversity … my miracle … my baby girl who has just woken up and is demanding that I go and fetch her from her travel cot and bring her down and feed her in the sunshine so she can watch the hummingbirds and enjoy the glorious blue skied day and maybe go down to the Pacific to watch the sunset before we come back to pack our case to return home.