Photo by www.news.com.au
JENNY Harte is a miracle mum. She gave birth to her children at 47 and 51 after undergoing IVF treatment – amazingly, at that age, using her own eggs – to conceive Holly, 7, and Jackson, 4.
She beat incredible odds. Women over 43 are given an IVF success chance of less than 2 per cent.
Of women who gave birth in Queensland in 2006, less than 1 per cent were over 45.
Fertility specialists say the children, born healthy after normal pregnancies, are "little miracles".
For Jenny and husband Steve, who live on the Brisbane northside, their children are simply a blessing.
"At my age, it is almost unheard of," she said. "We have two of the most absolutely beautiful children."
Queensland Fertility Group director and leading IVF specialist David Molloy said it was equivalent to a "major Casket win".
"She's been incredibly lucky – your chance of getting second division in Lotto would be higher," Dr Molloy said. "I would think only one or two women in Queensland would have given birth who are over 50."
He said the chances of having a child with Down Syndrome was 100-1 for women over 42, but jumped to 20-1 for women over 48.
Mrs Harte, a part-time pharmacist, now 55, and her husband, 52, who works at Brisbane Airport, say they feel "incredibly blessed" to be parents so late in their lives.
But as their own siblings watch their children go through university, the Hartes have been hit by the reality they may not live to see their own grandchildren.
Their path to parenthood is one of courage, patience and enduring love.
"I was 41 when I got married and that is past the use-by date," Mrs Harte told The Sunday Mail.
"I have always desperately, desperately wanted children and the GP said, 'Straight to IVF'.
"I fell pregnant on the first cycle we had but we lost it. It was a hard road after that . . . a horrible five years of ups and downs and disappointment and nearly losing my marriage."
The couple endured 11 IVF cycles and 13 months with a naturopath before Holly was born. "I was on a donor egg program. When I rang up to tell them I was pregnant but to leave my name on the list, they said my turn was up for an egg.
"After we had Holly we went to a counsellor and decided it would be worse if we didn't try for another baby, and tried once, and fell pregnant with Jackson straight away."
As older parents, Mrs Harte said they had to live with assumptions from strangers and, at first, from younger mothers at school.
"I was with Holly under the beach shower on Stradbroke and a bloke walking past said, 'Good on ya, Granny'.
"I just laughed. I have a great sense of humour. I am 55 but I feel 35 and I don't think I look 55."
While she is yet to meet another "new mum" in her 50s, she has plenty of friends with kids.
"I have a very young attitude. I don't want my kids to suffer because I am older. If they want me to chase them around the park I will – maybe not so enthusiastically," she laughed.
"I was a bit concerned about acceptance by other mothers.
"When I took Holly to preschool I was 51 and the other mothers all thought I was her nanny. Now we all go to coffee and go on holidays together."
Maturity as parents also means financial security, but there is always the reality of not seeing her grandchildren.
"We are financially stable, we invested well, and we are more settled and we love taking the kids on holidays. Life is pretty good. I have an 81-year-old mother and three siblings and I won't be around when Holly is 55, and I won't be able to see the grandchildren.
"But that is life and it makes me a bit sad."
Mr Harte, equally overwhelmed by love for his children, says his biggest fear is dying and leaving his kids behind: "I'm 52, and if I get to 'three score and 10', I have another 18 years.
"I might not see Holly's children. That is my goal in life – to stay alive long enough to see them. But longevity isn't a big thing in my family.
"I know Jenny will be there for them and I will hang in for as long as I can. That is the plan."
Peta Clacherty, who is president of an IVF support organisation, Friends of Queensland Fertility Group, described the Hartes' success as a "miracle".
"A lot of people have been trying for over 10 years and I know a lady who has been doing it for 17 years," Ms Clacherty said.
"I cannot believe it.
"I know how hard it is for me to get up in the middle of the night (to look after children) but good luck to her."
Dr Molloy said Mrs Harte's case was one of the oldest pregnancies in Queensland. Reproductive ageing is becoming a major issue as more and more women have had to put their families on hold, he said.
"There is a small but increasing number of patients.
"It just goes to show it isn't over until the last egg is gone."
Photo by www.news.com.au
About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.
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