Real Life

Queensland woman becomes a first time mum at 47

''It took 40 years for my dream to come true.''
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Donna Palmer, 47, from Brisbane, Qld, shares her touching story with Take 5.

Walking through the shopping centre, my eyes locked onto the woman walking past me.

The sight of her pregnant belly caused me to burst into tears.

Keep it together! I told myself, before racing back to my car.

My journey trying to have a baby in my 40s had become so painful that just seeing a pregnant woman or newborn would make me an emotional mess.

I’d known I wanted to be a mum since I was seven, when my little sister, Michelle, was born.

My mum, Pam, taught my brother, Brian and me how to change her nappies and bathe her and I loved it.

Years later, I became a kindergarten teacher, just to be around kids, but finding a man to start a family with was much harder.

So in 2015, at 39, it was time to stop waiting. I had to make my motherhood dream come true on my own.

Donna had a dream to become a mum since she was seven.

(Image: Lauren Joy Photography)

So I moved back home to Brisbane to live with Mum and my father, Doug, and save money.

“Don’t worry about paying rent, love,” Dad kindly insisted.

After securing a new teaching job, I found a fertility clinic, who put me in touch with a sperm donor so I could start IUI, or intrauterine insemination treatments, where sperm was placed directly into my uterus as I was ovulating.

But after two failed rounds, I was advised to try IVF.

It would cost me thousands but living rent-free helped me afford it.

Just as I was preparing to start treatment, Dad’s health rapidly declined and he passed away from bowel cancer in May, 2016.

It was gut wrenching, but I knew he’d want me to keep going.

After that, the process became an emotional roller coaster of pregnancy and loss, hope and heartbreak.

Each time, Mum was my rock, even while grieving Dad.

“You’ve got this,” she’d tell me.

Donna with her son after he was born in October 2022.

(Image: supplied)

By 41, I knew my time was running out but I still felt healthy and active and knew I’d make a good mum.

Hoping I’d have more success falling pregnant using someone else’s eggs, I joined the IVF clinic’s embryo donation list.

My first donated embryo transfer resulted in an early miscarriage and the next two transfers didn’t take.

“You’ll need a surrogate,” a nurse told me. “You’re never going to fall pregnant.”

I’d considered it, but it had always been my dream to carry my child.

The more failures I had, the harder to it was to hold onto the dream of becoming a mum at all.

Opening up to family and friends about my struggles helped me cope.

I talked to my personal trainer, Chloe, who became a good mate.

“If you want to cry or hit something, I’m here to do that with you,” she told me.

Donna Palmer and Eli with her IVF doctor Dr Kee Ong.

(Image: supplied)

In 2019, I opened up to my acupuncturist.

“You should try Dr Kee Ong,” she said. “He’s an amazing IVF doctor.”

Willing to try anything, I travelled to the Gold Coast to see Dr Ong, who put me at ease and showed me a website where I could place an ad for egg donors.

Later, when I messaged a group of friends about my search for a donor, my friend Kaitlin, 28, replied.

I’d love to do this for you, she texted me.

Kaitlin was a mother of two who I’d met in 2016 when we worked together.

She’d always been incredibly kind, but this felt like too much. Would she really give me her eggs?

“Yes, you really deserve this,” she insisted, when I met her for coffee.

“I can’t thank you enough,” I said, blinking back tears.

Donna loves being a mum to Eli.

(Image: supplied)

In June, 2020, at 44, I fell pregnant with one of Kaitlin’s embryos.

But my joy was short-lived, as I miscarried after seven weeks.

When her second embryo didn’t take, I felt terrible about putting Kaitlin through another egg collection but she wasn’t ready to give up.

“I want to do this,” she insisted.

COVID restrictions delayed us for a while but in June 2021, we got three viable embryos.

The first didn’t take, so in January, 2022, at age 46, I told Dr Ong to put the last two in at once.

“I just want to get on with my life,” I said. After seven years of trying to fall pregnant, I’d all but given up hope. If this didn’t work, I’d accept defeat and give up on my dream for good.

When I started bleeding two weeks later, I assumed the worst – again – but a blood test at the IVF clinic proved otherwise.

“Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” the nurse told me.

“You’re kidding!” I cried, overwhelmed with joy.

Donna and Eli with her friend Kaitlin and Kaitlin’s daughters.

(Image: supplied)

Of course I was terrified I’d face another loss but as the days and weeks wore on, I reminded myself to enjoy every moment.

Despite having terrible morning sickness and reflux, my baby remained healthy throughout my pregnancy.

Seeing my baby bump grow bigger each day was incredible.

This is it, I smiled, rubbing my ballooning belly.

In October 2022, a wave of love came over me as I laid eyes on my son, Eli for the first time.

At 47, my dream had finally come true. I was a mother.

Chloe, who was my birthing partner, was crying more than me!

But as little Eli lay on my chest, perfectly pink and wrinkled, I was elated.

You’re real! I kept thinking.

Eli was worth every penny Donna spent on IVF.

(Image: supplied)

His middle name was Douglas, after Dad, who I knew would be as in love with his new grandchild as Mum was.

When Kaitlin met Eli she was thrilled.

“I’m so happy for you,” she told me.

“He wouldn’t be here without you,” I said.

Five months later, raising Eli has been an absolute joy. I love watching him change and grow everyday.

His beautiful blue eyes and huge grin melt my heart.

I’d worried about how I’d cope raising him at my age but so far it’s been fine and the sleepless nights are all worth it.

I still look at my little miracle man and think: Wow, he’s actually mine!

It cost me more than $50,000 to become a mum, but Eli was worth every penny.

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