Starting school, against the odds

FOR all mothers, sending a little one off to their first day at school is one of those wonderful memories that lasts a lifetime.

But for parents like first-time mum Tanya Rickerby, who faced extra challenges in getting to that day, the occasion is tinged with a different range of emotions.

Tanya’s five-year-old daughter Ebony is a child the now 43-year-old never thought she would have.

An IVF baby, Ebony was born at 27 weeks weighing just 1054 grams (just over two pounds), and spent the first two months of her life in hospital, much of that connected to tubes and monitors, with Tanya anxiously by her side.

While many mums get to connect with their bubs through the sensory experience of breastfeeding, Tanya had the more disconnecting experience of having to express her milk to have it couriered daily to the hospital.

At age 38, with no partner and a burning desire to have a child, Tanya had turned to IVF treatment to conceive.

But after a 19-week scan revealed that the pregnancy would be complicated, her joy soon turned to anxiety as she was forced to take extended bed rest and then spend the final eight weeks of her pregnancy in hospital.

Living in Melbourne at the time, with no family support and unsure of her daughter’s ongoing health, Tanya received another blow when her landlord informed her he wanted to sell the property and she would be evicted.

With her tiny baby, Tanya returned home to Sale to be closer to her parents and give Ebony the extended family support that has proved invaluable.

There has been physical and mental exhaustion, panic and anxiety attacks, and bouts of uncertainty and depression for the first-time mum, but the support of family and the joy of motherhood has been her rock.

Now as energetic and healthy as any five-yearold, Ebony relished the opportunity to make friends and meet her teachers on her first day of school at Araluen in Sale last Tuesday.

And school seems to be a good fit for the bright youngster, with the best thing about the day being the mini science lesson, as well as the chance to make new friends.

Tanya said she made the right decision moving back to Sale, and has since connected with four other mothers who conceived through the IVF program and were providing support to each other as mums.

“Motherhood was something I had always dreamed of, and always thought I would achieve,” she said.

“But as I got close to 40 and faced the end of my last serious relationship, it felt like it may not happen for me.

“At that time of my life I thought it was too late for me, so the opportunity to use the IVF program and give birth to a much-wanted baby was wonderful.”

Tanya said the process was expensive and “emotionally draining”, but had given her the otherwise unlikely opportunity of motherhood, and the chance to wait at the school gate every afternoon like so many others.