It’s 4am and I can’t sleep.
Miss L, who is one, has had an unsettled night and is currently occupying my side of the bed. She is a terrible, restless sleeper and she has been ‘spoilt’ by being allowed to sleep against me since birth. I know, I know, I can sense the eye rolls from here. As a mum of five, I should know better. But she is my last and I subscribe to my mother’s firm belief that you can never cuddle babies too much.
So here we are.
All I can do is gaze at her precious, tiny face and marvel at how lucky we are to have her.
Two rounds of IVF, one using Lisa’s eggs, and one using mine, proved unsuccessful in our bid to complete our family. Besides the exorbitant expense, it was devastating and emotionally draining to say the least. Anyone who has been through IVF will know how intrusive and all-encompassing it is – early morning daily trips to the city to get countless blood tests to monitor hormone levels, the self-administering of hormone boosting FSH injections designed to mass produce eggs for manual harvesting by your chosen fertility specialist. Oh and then the lovely internal scans to check follicle size and ensure optimal timing of the procedure. Definitely not fun.
Added to this is the risk of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) after egg retrieval, which for me was more likely given my polycystic ovaries. It was an altogether horrendous experience, alleviated only by the enchanting conversations and humour from both my obstetrician and his ‘boss’ Marg – his secretary come office manager come lifeblood of his business. With fifteen years of fertility treatment under my belt, I now feel certain I have cemented my frequent flyer status in the office. Marg and I are old mates.
I have been through at least four cycles of IVF over the years. Two of these have resulted in me developing OHSS, which is still, to this day, the most painful condition I have ever experienced. I would rather give birth than go through that pain again. The second bout was the worst and occurred when my eldest child, Master Z, was one. After being discharged from my IVF procedure, I found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable as the day wore on, eventually being unable to sit, lie or stand in any position comfortably. Gasping for breath, I wanted to scream in pain and was immediately rushed back to hospital. I truly thought I was dying.
I ended up in hospital for a week, with fluid on the lungs, drains to alleviate this and a distended stomach that literally made it appear that I was six months’ pregnant: a cruel irony given the situation.
The prospect of possibly facing this again was not a pretty one for me, or for Lisa, but we did it because given our ages it was our best chance to conceive.
‘Why another child? You’ve already got four!’
If only I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this. Honestly, I ended up getting sick of explaining myself so simply started to reply. ‘If you knew my children you would understand’. I am biased obviously, and while there is of course truth in the statement, I felt frustrated. If only I could get out of the awkwardness of this question as straight couples can, simply by saying, ‘Oh she was a surprise’. Judgement gone, awkwardness averted. But no, sadly, our choices are deliberate and sanity therefore often called into question by those who ask, simply because there are no ‘accidents’ in same sex parenting. I wish I hadn’t felt awkward. I wish I didn’t feel the need to justify. Even to this day I still feel my face burn in embarrassment when people raise their eyebrows after hearing I have five children. I realise this happens with heterosexual couples with large families too, but at least there is always the ‘accident’ clause that buys them a little more latitude.
No, Lisa and I made the deliberate choice to try for Miss L. Lisa had been kind enough to take on my older three children when we got together, but she still wanted two of her own. She is an only child as her parents were not able to have any more. As we have 50/50 shared care of the older three children, Master C would be left for half the time as effectively an only child. We wanted a playmate for him. Both Lisa and I have professional roles every day of our lives working with children; this is where our interests lie. Both of us always wanted a large family. Both of us wanted our last little darling.
So finally after the two unsuccessful rounds of IVF, we decided that perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m generally not good at taking no for an answer, but in the back of my mind there was a lingering voice telling me not to push my luck this time. I had four happy, healthy children, maybe I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth? Lisa and I decided to have one last try at artificial insemination. It was less expensive, less invasive, yet also less effective. But we had come to the end of the road financially and emotionally and we were already parents. So enough was enough. One last try.
And she is the most spritely, beautiful, happy little girl ever.
Yes she sleeps in our bed.
Yes we cuddle her. A lot.
Yes we have five kids.
And yes, we did it on purpose.