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"I was heartbroken, but I never wanted to give up on having a baby."

At the age of 36, after losing her fallopian tubes, a divorce and 11 cycles of IVF, Shannon Fitzgerald is a single mum by choice to three beautiful babies. This is her story, in her own words.

I know that it’s a cliché, but having children was always what I was meant to do.

Right from my very first memory I wanted children. You could ask my parents and friend. I know that they would tell you the same thing. I always had a knack with babies and children and I always wanted to be around them. I worked in childcare for a long time and always babysat my friends’ children. I was always at my neighbours’ homes wanting to help with their babies. There was no way in this world was I not going to be a mum some way or another.

I married my now ex-husband in 2002 and we decided to try straight away for children. It just didn’t happen. My first pregnancy was ectopic and I was rushed to hospital where the baby and my tube were removed. Not long after, my remaining tube had to be removed after twisting and hemorrhaging.

With both tubes removed I only had one choice to conceive; through IVF. We went through the IVF process but it didn’t work and we separated not long after that.

"I was meant to have a baby." Image: iStock.

I gave myself a five years to enjoy single life, working, travelling and living, before I would make a decision to have children. Those years came and went and eventually, at 36 years, I decided I wanted to have a baby and made the decision to use donor sperm and have a child on my own.

After my first egg removal (40 eggs) I got very sick and was taken to hospital. I had Ovarian Hyperstymulation – a life threatening condition. Once that was over all of the IVF attempts failed. It was really hard, but I kept most of it to myself. I used to get the news – ring to tell my parents and best friend then sit in the car and have a cry. Then I would pick myself up and get on with it. It was so frustrating as you are injecting yourself two to three times a day plus getting blood tests every few days. I don’t think at any stage I was ready to give up but I definitely felt heart broken after every attempt.

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I had to go back into surgery to for another egg removal.  Only five eggs were taken.  Only 4 made it to embryos.  I put two in and none worked.  Next time I put another two in and that’s when, after 11 attempts, I fell pregnant with Max.

At the time, I didn’t believe I was pregnant with my son. I was actually in Fiji and I had been to get my blood tests before we left. The clinic had told me my hormone levels were very low so I was pregnant but like many other times it was likely it wouldn’t continue for long. When I got back I had another blood test.

I got the call in the afternoon and they asked if I wanted to know the day. I asked if they meant the date for the next procedure? They answered no, the due date.

I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I swore and I cried. I never fully believed it until I saw the scans. Even then I didn’t believe it. I didn’t buy anything for the baby until he was born. The pregnancy was great. The birth was hard, I was in labour for 24 hours and ended up with an emergency caesarean.

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"The birth was hard." Image: iStock.

He was one of those perfect children. He slept all night from eight weeks old and was never any trouble. I had a year of maternity leave from my job as an HR Manager. Work was supporting me while I was doing my MBA and I continued doing one subject a semester while I was on leave. I went back to work four days a week when Max was one. It worked very well. I loved being a mum and continuing my career.

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At the same time I decided to try again as Max was going to have a bit of a different life and I wanted a sibling for him to share it with. I thought it would take a long time again. I had no embryos from Max's IVF so had to go through egg retrieval again. The doctors put two embryos back in.

A few mornings later I woke up and I had no feeling in my legs. I had to drag myself along the floor into Max’s room and pull him over the top of the cot as I couldn’t stand up. I rang Mum and Dad and was rushed to hospital.

After a scan, the hospital staff found a blood clot in the main artery in my leg. I was rushed into surgery. When I woke up in intensive care, they said the clot had been in my heart and travelled to my leg. They told me I had  hyperstymulation again, and they told me I was pregnant with twins.

I nearly fell off the bed. After the shock wore off the pregnancy was great. At 35 weeks and 6 days my beautiful babies were born.  Jordyn was 1.8kg and Tyler 2.8kgs.  They went to special care and spent 2 weeks there. I had to go home without them which was very hard. We spent a few months living with my Mum and Dad and then moved into our own house (50 metres away from them).

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"They went to special care and spent two weeks there." Image: iStock.
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When the twins were 6 months old, I decided I needed a nanny one day a week so I could have some time out each week. I really struggled to find someone that had twin experience. I had no idea what to look for and what kind of experience, qualifications and checks were needed.

I knew I was being made redundant so I decided to open Nanny2u – a nanny and babysitting agency that specialises in multiples and everything in-between. It gave me the opportunity to earn an income, be flexible in my hours and work from home to support my family. I also really enjoy knowing I have helped families get through the tough times and hopefully taken some of the stress away from them by providing excellent nannies that become part of the family.  Two years later the business is growing quickly and I have just launched Housekeeper2u.

Being a single mum of three children is hard work. All the decisions (financial and emotionally) rest on me. There is no ‘time out’. I look after everything. I do all of the care for the kids. I am the cook and the cleaner. I put the bins out. I pay the bills. Sometimes it is overwhelming and sometimes I am so tired I don’t know how I can go on.

"We were in contact with other donor's families." Image: iStock.

All in all, I am just a normal mum, with my kid’s best interests at heart.  We have our good and bad days just like everyone else. I have had to do things in a different ways to lots of other families but our goals at the end of the day are the same. To have happy, healthy thriving kids.

Tags: baby-2 , single-mother , twins
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