This former netball champion is happy to live with a little chaos because it’s a messy reminder of her two little miracles.
After years of longing for a second baby, former sports champ Liz Ellis doesn’t mind the noise and mess of her lively brood.
Iam sitting in my living room, surrounded by mess. Glorious, magnificent mess. Balls, dolls, tea sets, tractors, Thomas the Tank Engine and all sixty squillion of his train friends litter the floor. It’s the type of mess that only a two-year-old can make, and only when he is enabled in the pursuit of said mess by his six-year-old sister. It stretches from the living area down the hallway and into the bedrooms of both kids. And you know what? I love that mess.
Actually, it’s not so much the mess itself that I love, but rather the fact that it exists at all. It’s the sort of mess – created by two scheming siblings, currently oscillating between laughing and squabbling in their bedrooms – that I never thought I would have in my home. For me, that mess is not just something that will have to be tidied up later (likely by me, singing “This is how we put the toys away at the end of the daaaaaay…” in an attempt to get a little bit of help from the creators of it), but rather, it is a reminder that life is good and I am happy.
Six years ago, my husband Matthew and I made the decision to leave the city for the country and build our dream home there. We had decided to start a family and thought that living on a farm would be perfect for our kids. We had every reason to be confident this would happen. At the time, I was pregnant with our first baby, who was conceived within a stupidly short time frame, given the fact that I was 37 and Matthew was 42.
Evelyn was born, the dream house became a reality and – we assumed – we were well on the way to filling it with rambunctious urchins. Then the reality of secondary infertility set in. We went through years of trying to make little occupants for big bedrooms, of trying to give Evelyn a sibling, of trying to make our family complete. Yet we had little to show for it other than three miscarriages, a box full of ultrasound pictures (of babies that would never be born), receipts for IVF treatment and lists of supplements guaranteed to help us get our baby.
I had started to feel foolish about building a house with so many bedrooms. People would innocently ask when we were going to fill it. I would not so innocently want to scream back at them that we were trying and they should mind their own bloody business. I felt guilty about our decision to live on a farm so far out of town with an only child. Would Evelyn remember a childhood of loneliness? Of no one to play with? Of kicking aimlessly around acres of grass and trees with just a dog, some chooks and cows and her dorky (old) parents for company?
Yet after nearly five years of fertility treatment, we were physically, emotionally and financially spent. My sister had generously offered to donate her eggs for us, and we had decided that if it wasn’t successful, we were done trying for another child. Then fate intervened. While we were sorting out the logistics of a donor cycle, I fell pregnant the
‘We went through years of trying to make little occupants for big bedrooms... to make our family complete.’
old-fashioned way. After all the years of trying and heartbreak, I couldn’t believe it was happening. That I was pregnant again. That this baby was sticking around. That a new life would be coming into our new home.
Nine months later, Austin arrived. In the two years since then, he has added the finishing touches to our home. They’re the sort of touches only a two-year-old can get away with, like pen marks on furniture, Tonka truck scars on walls and smears of peanut butter everywhere in-between.
A small part of me wants to be cross at this desecration of my dream home, but that’s always overruled by the much larger part, the part that wants my home to be one where kids feel safe and comfortable, one that’s filled with laughter and memories. It’s the part that reminds me every day that I am now a mum of two beautiful, energetic and sometimes mischievous kids, and with that comes chaos, mess and dirt. And it’s more than balanced by the fact that they also bring lots of love and kisses and cuddles.
My journey through infertility taught me about patience and strength and gratitude. I also learned how to not sweat the small stuff. So when I have a choice between tidying up and joining in the fun with the kids I never thought I would have, the kids win every time. The mess can wait.
Liz Ellis is a former captain of Australia’s national netball team, with an18-year career at the top. This year, she was named an Officer of theOrder of Australia (AO). Liz is also an experienced broadcaster and media personality. Her book, If At First You Don’t Conceive ($34.99, Macmillan), is a fully researched guide for Australian couples facing infertility issues.