Mary Coustas' daughter Jamie came into the world after 23 IVF attempts – 18 with donor eggs. She just might have been the most longed-for baby girl on earth. Now she is three, vivacious and beautiful, not yet old enough to understand the immensity of her mother's efforts to conceive but old enough to know she is surrounded by love. And the joy in the air was palpable at Mary and Jamie's exclusive interview and photo shoot published in the June edition of The Australian Women's Weekly."Jamie's birth changed everything," Mary smiles. "Absolutely everything. It has definitely made me a better person. I'm more empathetic. I'm quicker to laughter but I'm quicker to tears. And I think I'm a better performer because of the experiences I've been through and survived."
Mary is best known for the creation of the quirky Greek-Australian everywoman, Effie, who first appeared on the TV comedy, Acropolis Now, and is currently on a national theatre tour in Effie the Virgin Bride.
Both in real life and as Effie, Mary says, she is becoming practised at dispelling taboos. "First there was the taboo around the donor eggs. Then there was the taboo around still birth." Mary's 17th IVF attempt ended in tragedy when her daughter, Stevie, died during a premature birth at 22 weeks.
Now there's the taboo of the older mother, with which Mary grapples daily. "Because we're older parents, Jamie needs to put in the foundations for broader, richer, more diverse understandings of love and family and her world. It takes a village and I have plenty of village people."
Some of Mary's village people include her mother, her in-laws and her family and friends in Greece, where Mary, her husband George Betsis and Jamie spend two or three months of every year. In Greece, Jamie has met dozens of cousins, learnt to speak Greek and developed a love of all the animals that she gleefully identifies (in two languages) for The Weekly.
Mary's time in Greece is about total relaxation. After a decade of struggle, she says, "in the words of Wham!, I choose life."
To learn more about Mary and Jamie's life, at home in Australia and in Greece, and about Mary's struggle to become a mum, pick up the June edition of The Australian Women's Weekly, out now.