Emily Symons: Henry has taught me how to enjoy my life again
EMILY SYMONS, 47, ENDURED YEARS OF FAILED IVF ATTEMPTS AND WAS FACING THE REALISATION THAT SHE MAY NEVER BE A MUM WHEN SHE FELL PREGNANT AT AGE 45 WITH A BABY BOY, HENRY, NOW 14 MONTHS. BEST KNOWN FOR PLAYING MARILYN CHAMBERS ON HOME AND AWAY, THE AUSSIE
The Home and Away star bares all about her fertility journey and the joy of finally having a baby at age 45
Lots of things are going on when you're doing IVF. It has a big impact on your life because you're in this constant cycle of being injected and tested, as well as spending so much time in the clinic. It affects you emotionally and physically – constant hope because you want it to work and then there's the disappointment when it isn't successful. It was an emotional roller-coaster for me, I have to say.
I didn't expect it to work at all. I thought I would be too old. There was a very small chance that I could get pregnant using my own egg anyway, so we were so lucky that our last attempt worked! It was astonishing, really. I didn't want to turn 46 and not have given everything I could. I'm really glad that we did try and I just can't believe it worked!
You have to do a blood test at the clinic to find out if it's been successful, and there's a two-week wait for the IVF test. They tell you not to do a test at home, because the hormone that you inject for the egg collection can sometimes give you a false positive. They say, ‘Don't test at home – come to the clinic to get the results.’ What did I do? I went upstairs and did a home test! I did it five days post-transfer and the faintest pink line came up. I still, to this day, cannot believe what I saw. From that day on, I thought, 'It's worked!' I was over the moon. When you're doing IVF and you become pregnant, you're terrified you're going to lose the baby so you are very careful about getting too excited because you don't want to go through the upset of losing it. Seeing that pink line after so many [failed attempts] and being a 45-year-old woman was pretty amazing!
I had a difficult, high-risk pregnancy, including issues with my placenta and blood pressure due to my age. When you have an older pregnancy you have to be tested for everything. I had an amniotic fluid leak around 16-18 weeks and after that I was not allowed to do any exercise. I was still able to work but I was happy to do whatever I had to do to keep Henry safe. At about the 29-week mark we found out Henry wasn’t growing properly and my obstetrician told us he would have to deliver him at 32 weeks. From that moment on I had to finish work really
quickly. The pregnancy was terrifying, just wondering why he wasn’t growing properly and if he would be okay. They told me to go home, lie down and eat – which of course, I embraced – and then we got to 32 weeks and he had started growing again. He ended up getting to 38 weeks. We went from being told he was going to be delivered early and [we would have] to stay in the hospital to having him at 38 weeks and being able to take him straight home. It was such a wonderful outcome, but such a stressful time. I didn’t get any morning sickness and was quite well, but it was just more the worrying. All we wanted was the best possible outcome and I was so lucky to have lots of wonderful people looking after me.
I knew when I first visited the obstetrician that I would have to have a caesarean because of my age. I didn’t mind because it’s taken me all these years to have a baby [and] as long as he was healthy, I didn’t mind how he came out. I didn’t want to complicate the pregnancy further by asking about a natural birth – with my medical history it wasn’t possible. The delivery day moved around a bit because each week, as Henry grew a little more, they postponed it. I had my bag packed at the door for eight weeks! It was strange because we got there at midday, and by 1pm I had a baby! I was overjoyed and overwhelmed. It’s so surreal. You’re lying there with your eyes open but you can’t see your baby because of your belly. I heard this little cry and all of a sudden there he was!
I have always loved the name Henry. Henry’s dad, Paul had a great-grandfather named Henry too so it had some family meaning and we both loved the name. So we settled on it at the 12-week mark, when we found out he was a boy through a blood test. Naming him was the easiest part!
I found the sleep deprivation very hard. I don’t think that there’s anything that can prepare you for that. The fact that I was so much older didn’t help either. I would say I was in a deep fog for the first year, but now I feel much more energetic and Henry sleeps through so we are blessed with that.
Back ON SET
Going back to work after five months was bittersweet. There’s a part of you that wants to do all the things you haven’t been able to do when you’re in a newborn baby bubble. But when I got to work, all I wanted was to be home with Henry. I thought [the] old ‘me’ would want to be back at work, but it took a long time to adjust. Henry has an incredible nanny – she’s like family. It helps to know Henry is being looked after so well when I am not there. It was hard to hand over to someone else, but now it’s working beautifully.
Being a mum is a humbling experience and it’s taught me to enjoy every moment. Henry’s first word was ‘mama’, so that was possibly the greatest moment of my life! I’ve become more patient and kind. Watching Henry enjoy little things like going to the supermarket in the car has made me realise that it’s these things that matter. I lost my mother in 2010 and I forgot how to be a happy person. Henry has brought so much joy with him and he’s really taught me how to enjoy my life again.
EMILY WEARS Elk tulip sleeve silk dress, $220; stylist’s own necklace; Emily’s own shoes HENRY WEARS Zuttion at The Corner Booth ‘Summertime Pineapple’ T-shirt, $44; Munsterkids at The Corner Booth ‘Fletcher’ shorts, $59.99; Henry’s own shoes (worn throughout)
EMILY WEARS Boden ‘Fleur’ fitted dress, $204; Emily’s own shoes HENRY WEARS Mini Boden striped jumper, $52; Purebaby at The Corner Booth ‘Pinstripe’ shorts, $49.95 (worn throughout)
EMILY WEARS Elk wing sleeve shirt, $130; Trenery button wide-leg pants, $179; and ‘Ledru’ cuff, $119 (seen throughout) HENRY WEARS Purebaby at The Corner Booth ‘Chevron’ shirt, $49.95
HENRY WEARS Munsterkids at The Corner Booth ‘Peaks’ T-shirt, $39.99
EMILY WEARS Magali Pascal ‘Marvin’ shirt, $169; Uniqlo jogger pants, $49.90; Emily’s own shoes