Single mother age 58 who gave birth to IVF twins asks 'What have I done?'

Single mother age 58 who gave birth to IVF twins asks 'What have I done?'

Three weeks have passed since Carole Hobson brought her IVF twins home from hospital and it’s clear her once ordered life as a mature, single career woman has been completely turned on its head.

A sky-high pile of freshly-washed babygros, bedding and towels sits on the dining table and the ironing board stands permanently in the living room. With the volume of washing, there is obviously little point in putting it away.

She tries to snatch a quick toasted cheese sandwich while son Matthew and daughter Freida sleep upstairs, but manages only a mouthful before the babies start crying in unison.

‘As you can hear, they both have a lusty set of lungs,’ she smiles, padding upstairs to lift Freida gently from her cot while replacing Matthew’s dummy.

Carole is averaging just two or three hours of sleep a night and admits to feeling completely exhausted at times with the relentless routine of feeding, burping, changing, washing and sterilising bottles. After all, she does not have a partner to share the strain.

And at 58, she is embarking on first-time motherhood at an age when most women are looking forward to retirement, grandchildren, holidays and a spot of gentle gardening.

‘I have about two hours a day to myself, to do everything that needs to be done,’ says Carole wearily, as her two dogs Milly and Lucy bark from a room downstairs in the vain hope of walkies. I don’t even have time to read a book any more, let alone eat a proper meal. Some days I feel almost mad with exhaustion.’

Carole’s only been out of the house once so far; to Bluewater shopping centre in Kent this week where a quick trip to the hairdressers was far from a relaxing treat and had to be abruptly curtailed. ‘Matthew chose that moment to do an explosive nappy,’ laughs Carole.

‘I was sitting in the salon chair saying: “You are going to have to hurry up!” It was all rather stressful.

But is she happy? Carole, a 58-year-old former barrister and trained social worker, spent £20,000 and underwent five rounds of IVF treatment — using donor eggs and sperm — to realise her dream of becoming a mother.

When Matthew and Freida were born nine weeks prematurely by emergency Caesarean on Christmas Eve — each weighing 3lb 3oz — Carole became one of Britain’s oldest mothers of twins.

And she is the oldest single woman to embark on such a daunting enterprise, producing mixed-race children to whom she has no biological link at all.

They were conceived in a Mumbai laboratory with donor eggs from a 24-year-old Indian woman and donor sperm from a Scandinavian engineering graduate.

Six resulting embryos were implanted into Carole’s womb. An early scan revealed she was carrying triplets and at 13 weeks Carole opted to selectively reduce the pregnancy because of the risk to her own and the babies’ health.

‘Am I happy?’ repeats Carole, before a slightly uncomfortable silence descends. She’s not quite sure how to answer because in the traumatic weeks since their birth — when she feared the twins might not survive — she’s had plenty of time to reflect on the wisdom of her actions.

Finally, she says: ‘I’m very happy to be caring for my two babies. I feel overwhelmed with love for them and very protective of them, but it would be nice to get a good night’s sleep. But I am sure it will get easier.’

Would she do it all again, knowing what she knows now? Again, Carole picks her words carefully. ‘Like many new mothers, I’ve had my “what have I done?” moments,’ she says.

‘Now that Matthew and Freida are here and I have bonded with them, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel very lucky to have them, but I would say to any older woman considering doing the same to think very carefully about it. Given my experience, a single baby rather than a multiple pregnancy would be the best way and I would advise any older woman to have a baby as young as possible.’

Carole, sleep-deprived, pole-axed by the reality of caring for baby twins and anxious for their still fragile health, appears to illustrate perfectly the proverb: ‘Be careful what you wish for . . . you might just get it.’

But it’s early days yet and, to be fair to Carole, she looks far less frazzled than I’d expected, given the demands of twins. She seems to be incredibly well and has a calm, loving commitment to her babies — but it’s hard to detect any sign of euphoria.

I first met Carole last December when she was 29 weeks pregnant with the twins and was eagerly anticipating their safe arrival. Despite the pregnancy causing her all manner of health problems — including dangerously high blood pressure and water retention, which caused her legs to swell painfully — Carole was utterly confident about her ability to cope with twins.

She described to me the extraordinary lengths she went to in order to achieve her goal, batting away any criticism of her quest for late, single motherhood with clear-headed logic and well-rehearsed argument.

She explained how it wasn’t until her late 40s and early 50s that — having lacked all maternal instinct in her 20s or 30s, while she forged her career — she came to bitterly regret her childlessness.

Her then partner of 11 years, a geologist, was not keen on the idea, so Carole decided to go ahead alone, effectively sacrificing their relationship on the altar of motherhood.

In pursuit of doctors who would help her, Carole travelled from Kent to the Ukraine, back to London, to Cyprus and finally to a fertility clinic in India — which treats women up to the age of 63 — where her fifth attempt at IVF proved successful.

‘I felt incomplete without a child,’ she said, explaining that she went to India because of shortage of egg donors elsewhere. ‘I want to seize every opportunity that medical science can offer me, as a woman. Some people might accuse me of being selfish or going against nature, but isn’t it going against nature to perform transplants or heart surgery? I’m no more selfish than any other woman who wants a family.’

Today, Carole has the family she longed for, but she admits it has been ‘a traumatic journey’ and one she would not wish to repeat.

Article: 19th March 2011 Read more:

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Posted: 20/03/2011 16:39:35


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