On Home

This for­mer net­ball cham­pion is happy to live with a lit­tle chaos be­cause it’s a messy re­minder of her two lit­tle mir­a­cles.

Australian House & Garden - - THE CHRISTMAS ISSUE DECEMBER - By Liz El­lis

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.

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