Here, Manda Epton, 50, tells the story in her own words.
S￼taring at the photo, I felt an instant connection with her.
With pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, we looked so alike.
In her 20s, she was artistic like I was, and she shared my English-Scottish background.
This is her, I decided. This is my egg donor.
As my 50th birthday approached, I’d always assumed I’d be married with a family by now. Life didn’t work out like that, though.
When a long-term relationship ended at 34, I started to feel the tick-tock of my biological clock.
There’s still time, I reasoned, reading stories about actresses having bubs in their 40s.
Dating, however, I found many men already had families. ‘I don’t want any more kids,’ they told me, honestly. So I decided to go it alone.
Booking an appointment at an IVF clinic, I explained my dream of motherhood.
‘You’ve got a five per cent chance of having a baby, even with IVF,’ a doctor explained bluntly.
It was the first time I’d been told the truth – by now most of my eggs were gone. But with a seven-year wait to adopt, I still wanted to try.
Starting my IVF journey, using donor sperm and my remaining eggs, I crossed everything.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be.Heartbreakingly, I suffered failed cycles and two miscarriages.
Bawling my eyes out every time, it was incredibly painful. To make things harder, the business I ran had been asked to design a teddy bear.
Orders flooded in, and now I was visiting baby shops selling our soft toys. Faced with babies and bumps everywhere, I felt desperate. Why can’t it be my turn? I wondered.
After ploughing $75,000 into IVF, I still didn’t have a bub in my arms.
Stepping outside the shop, I’d sob and sob. Then my friend told me she was using donor eggs to have a baby.
The clinic, Cape Fertility in South Africa, was much cheaper than an Aussie one. Would it feel the same if the baby wasn’t genetically mine? I wondered, intrigued.
But the fact is, many older mums use donor eggs – it just isn’t spoken about.
‘If you needed a kidney, you’d take it, wouldn’t you?’ my friend said. ‘You just need that bit of DNA, but the baby will have your blood, hear your voice. It’s you bringing it into the world.’ I decided she was right.
Nearing 50, I contacted the clinic, who said I was a suitable candidate because I was still very fit and healthy.
Sending them childhood and current photos of me, I was curious about who they’d find. And they’d done an incredible job. Now, I just needed a sperm donor.
Getting my friends round for a glass of wine, we looked through the profiles.
The clinic wasn’t allowed to show me photos of the men as adults, so instead we pored over their baby pics and descriptions. ‘How about this one?’ I said.
‘Danish, tall... likes reading...’ I read. ‘And it says he looks like Matt Damon!’ I was sold!
So, in December last year, I headed to South Africa to have two embryos transferred, in the hope one would take.
Deep down, I knew this was my last chance. If it fails, I’ll find happiness through my friends, I decided.
Back in Sydney, I nervously went for a blood test seven weeks later.
My sister, Jo, was staying with me, but I wanted to go to the clinic by myself.
Looking at my results, the doctor smiled. ‘You’re pregnant!’ she said. Ecstatic, I could have jumped in the air.
Rushing home, I burst in. ‘I’m having a baby!’ I cried, hugging Jo.
Still, I was anxious about whether everything would go smoothly. But it felt different this time, knowing both the egg and sperm were from young and healthy donors.
When a scan soon after showed I was having twins, I couldn’t believe it. ‘I’ve always wanted two children,’ I beamed. It was an instant family!
As my bump grew, I was so excited about meeting my little ones.
Telling my parents, both in their 70s, I felt nervous. What would they think about me being a single mum at 50? And to two bubs! ‘It’s amazing what they can do these days,’ Mum said, happy for me. In fact, everyone has been so supportive.
With us living longer and healthier lives, I knew I’d be just like a younger mum.
In August, my waters broke at 36 weeks and my friend, Simone, came to the hospital with me.
Taken in for a C-section, it felt surreal as my baby girls were lifted into the world.
Hearing their cries, I burst into tears. Then they were both laid on my chest together and held onto me with their tiny arms. They’re beautiful, I sobbed.
Now eight weeks old, my babies are the light of my life.
I’m sharing my story to try to spare other women my years of anguish. If you’re planning to start a family, think carefully about fertility, maybe get tested to check your egg count.
Being a mum is not about genetics. It’s about everything else. My girls will know they are very wanted and very, very loved. Being their mum is my dream come true.
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