Simone Buchanan's IVF Battle: Pregnant At 41!

August 24, 2009, 11:58 amnewidea

There's no mistaking Simone Buchanan's radiant smile and softly swelling stomach. At 41, the TV favourite's expecting her second child - an IVF baby that's sealed her happiness with husband Brett Smith.

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It's a pregnancy against the odds. With her biological clock ticking, Simone has also battled acute 'needle-phobia' and enough medical dramas to fuel an episode of All Saints.

Darkest hours

Some days, her system pumped with fertility drugs, she was so depressed she'd curl up in a ball and cry. Other times, she'd be seized with irrational feelings of anger and anxiety walking down the street, like her character on Neighbours, Sam Fitzgerald.

But now, gently rubbing her cherished bump, the former Hey Dad! star can safely say: 'I feel blessed, but it's been a rocky start. We've had our hearts in our mouths a lot of the time. I had no idea how difficult IVF can be. It's an emotional rollercoaster, and I have such empathy for others going through it...

'I'm so grateful for IVF and the help we've had, but I can't stress how difficult it is, and how lucky we are it worked for us first time.'

Already a doting mum to Tane, 11, the actress had hoped to expand her family for ages.

'I've been passionate about kids ever since Tane arrived,' Simone says. 'And it wasn't an easy birth - 20 hours in labour and an emergency caesarean!'


Date with destiny

Single and working in childcare between acting roles, she even thought of adopting. Then Simone met husband-to-be Brett when she walked into his Melbourne bar one night five years ago.

From the second she laid eyes on the Kendo champ, she knew he was her ideal man. They married in Melbourne last year.

'We started trying for a baby as soon as we got engaged in 2007, because we knew time was an issue,' says Simone, a devoted patron of Bali's Jodie O'Shea Orphanage. 'Nothing, nothing, and that went on and on...

'We were trying all up for about two years, before I went on some fertility drugs but that didn't help. We were getting desperate.'

Then a specialist recommended she have exploratory procedures on her fallopian tubes and ovaries. And that's when the first disaster struck. In a freakish incident, Simone's uterus was perforated during the examination. It meant severe pain and a six-week delay to the couple's pregnancy dreams.

Against all odds

IVF was the logical next step but Simone's odds weren't great - about a 15 per cent chance of conceiving at her age - and the treatment cost $5500 per cycle.

Brett, 37, says: 'It was a head-spin decision. My main motivation was wanting Simone to be happy. When we first met, she was concerned whether we would be able to have kids or not, and whether it would affect our relationship if we couldn't.

'I always said it wouldn't make any difference; I already had the two of them, her and Tane, to love.'

But nothing could prepare them for IVF: the hormone treatments sent Simone's emotions see-sawing, and injecting drugs into her stomach made her want to scream.

'You feel totally out of control and need good people around you,' she says. 'And half of you doesn't want to say anything to anyone, in case it doesn't work.'

But Simone and Brett were lucky. Doctors at Monash IVF retrieved 12 eggs; eight were fertilised and one tiny blastocyst was finally implanted - followed by a nail-biting two-week wait.

'That was really hard,' she says. 'You know it's in there, because you saw it all happen on the scan, but you don't know if you're going to lose it. But finally we got the call: "Yes, you're pregnant!" I couldn't believe it. First go. It was amazing!'

High pregnancy hormone levels initially indicated twins - a risk for a small mum-to-be - and at six, eight and 10 weeks, heavy bleeding gave Simone a scare. But now, thankfully, all's well.

'We're all so happy,' Simone beams. 'It's been quite trying; I couldn't have got through it without Brett and Tane. I had no idea how hard IVF is. I take my hat off to anyone who does it.'

SIMONE'S PREGNANCY DIARY

  • May 4: I'm using Synarel nasal spray every night and morning to suppress my natural cycle. It's like having really bad PMT and being irritable with everyone - but 10 times worse! Look out, everyone!

  • May 14: Now I have to inject drugs straight into my stomach, which really gets me because I'm needle-phobic. It has to be done very specifically at the same time every night, on the minute. It's hideous. They've given me this bag with needles, vials, swabs and even a syringe-disposal unit! It's a bit like having my own doctor's surgery here at home!

  • May 23: They've done the egg retrieval and got 12, which was great. But for two days my hormones went crazy. I was really depressed - wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Then I walked down the street shopping and became incredibly angry. I feel out of control.

  • May 28: Today they transferred the embryo. It was fast and painless; no anaesthetic. We were able to watch it being washed into my uterus. Amazing!

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