Guest blogger Julia Bateson writes of her experience telling her daughter that she was an IVF baby.
And then I was (finally) a mum … Joyously overwhelmed by this warm, precious, bundle of contentment. She was ours. Our golden daughter. Disappointment finally rewarded. Hope come to fruition. Statistically the lucky ones.
I lay in that sunny hospital bed so grateful to the consultants, doctors, nurses and midwives who carried us along from pre-conception to this happy, happy day; one we were too scared to believe would ever come. As she lay relaxed, across my mummy tummy, I remember thinking of all the things I would need to do for her that she couldn’t yet do for herself and how thrilled that made me feel. Telling her she was a precious IVF baby was a long, long way off. Something that never entered our minds.
Fast forward 10 adventurous, inspirational years. The time had come to tell our beautiful daughter that she was an extra-special ‘miracle’ IVF child. Being a primary school teacher, one who had several years’ experience of teaching sex education; I was certain that we should tell her once she understood how babies were made naturally. My husband trusted my judgement and we agreed that it would be confusing telling her “You were a special IVF baby,” before that developmental rite of passage had been reached.
I spoke to my daughter’s Head teacher and asked if they talked about IVF babies when they taught Sex Education as I felt that it was important to give balanced information so that all IVF children would feel ‘equal’ to their peers and not odd. She answered in the negative and asked if I would like to contribute to the school sex education planning to include a brief, age appropriate, guide to IVF, which I agreed to do.
Around her tenth birthday we talked about puberty, expected changes to the outside and inside of her body; introduced a couple of tried and tested books I use to teach with in school, to keep in her bedroom and refer to at will. We discussed periods and their purpose but there I stopped as I knew she wasn’t ready to hear about sex yet.
One winter’s night, nine months later, when she was in Year 6 at school, we had a mother daughter chat about how babies are made. She reacted like the majority of pink-faced Year 6 children, “Eeugh! That’s disgusting mum!”
“It’s actually a beautiful human jigsaw,” was my smiley response.
An hour or so later her Dad returned home and the three of us sat together on the sofa and talked about it together.
Then her dad said “Mum has told you about how a mum and a dad make a baby naturally. Even though we wanted you so very, very much and tried really, really hard, for many years, we just couldn’t make you naturally like that so we had to have some help from some very clever doctors and nurses at a special hospital.”
She sat there attentive, interested, focused, and silent.
“We had to do something called IVF which stands for In Vitro Fertilisation.”
She naturally looked blank. “You were made in a hospital. A doctor took my sperm and some of mummy’s eggs and fertilised the eggs in a dish in a laboratory. After a couple of days you were taken from the dish and put inside mummy’s womb, which eventually made mummy pregnant. But the magical thing for us was that we got to see you under a microscope first before you were put inside mummy.” (We were both so excited telling her this bit, faces alight, voices enthusiastic.)
“You looked like a sepia brown coloured raspberry of cells!”
I expected her to question what was wrong with us, why we couldn’t have a baby the natural way, she never asked.
We had put so much thought into how and when we would tell her that it never occurred to us how she would feel and what she would say about this momentous news.
Julia is a mum to two IVF primary-aged children. She has worked in education for the last 25 years in a variety of teaching and advisory roles, including delivering sex education programmes to 10-11-year-olds. Julia now runs Excite-ed, an educational technology community interest company, dedicated to preparing children for the digital world using online game design, app development and cyber safety.
In part two Julia will describe her daughter’s response. Read it here for more on telling your child they’re IVF.