TV presenter Julia Bradbury reveals how, aged 44, she beat the odds to give her four-year-old son surprise siblings.
It took TV presenter Julia Bradbury an incredible five IVF attempts to conceive her six-month-old twin daughters, Xanthe and Zena.
As she cuddles them on the sofa of the West London home she shares with her TV producer partner Gerard Cunningham, 56, and their four-year-old son, Zephyr, she knows how lucky she is to become a mum again at her age.
Now she hopes she can be an inspiration to women in a similar position. Here she tells M&B about her quest to have more children in her 40s and the joy of having twins…
Did you always want more children?
I am lucky to have Zephyr, but I had this longing to have a sibling for him. We started trying a few months
after he was born. But nothing was happening. As I felt there was no time to spare, we decided to start IVF.
What were your chances of conception?
Our IVF doctor, Dr Talha Shawaf, didn’t want to say ‘you have got a less than whatever chance’. But there’s a 35% chance of success when you are under 40, and less than 20% between 40 to 42. At 44, it was 5%, so in many ways, it is a small miracle.
Did you plan to have five IVF attempts?
Five attempts is high and I couldn’t have gone on indefinitely – it’s gruelling. Somehow I was optimistic, but it was difficult and it did take its toll. It was two years of having treatments before I finally conceived.
What was the financial cost involved?
It cost approximately £3,000 a cycle, but there are other costs to cover, including the fertility drugs and all the appointments, which cost hundreds of pounds. But I was prepared to make other financial sacrifices.
How did you find out you were pregnant?
I was on holiday in Greece. Gerry and I had to find a clinic that would do a blood test to determine if I was pregnant. We managed to find a clinic, but it was torture as we had to wait until the next day for the results. I made Gerry take the call and when he said ‘you’re pregnant’, I burst into tears.
When did you find out it was twins?
It wasn’t until six weeks later when I was back in London and I saw my lovely consultant. It was a shock but I was over the moon.
Did your pregnancy go full-term?
I got to 37 weeks, which is considered full-term for my age and for twins. The doctors wanted me to have an elective caesarean, but I wanted a natural birth.
Did they have to induce you?
Yes, they induced me at about 10am, and 15 minutes later I went into labour. My consultant recommended an epidural, as it would be safer in case of an emergency. The first twin, Xanthe, arrived at 8.45pm, weighing 6lbs 1oz.
What happened next?
After Xanthe was born, the second twin’s heart rate started to rise. She was showing signs of distress and I was losing blood rapidly. Zena was facing the wrong way and doctors had to use forceps to turn her over. I managed to do one gigantic push and she came out and was plopped on my chest. Zena was born 45 minutes after Xanthe. Luckily, she was fine. She weighed 6lbs 5oz.
How hands-on was Gerry during the birth?
It was lovely to have Gerry, my sister and my mum there. When Xanthe was born, Gerry put her on his chest and was talking to her while all the activity with Zena was going on.
Are you breastfeeding?
Yes, the double breast-pump and I have become best friends! I’m pumping about six or seven times a day, but I’m lucky with my milk production. With twins you don’t have the benefit of being able to stock up. But either my sister or Gerry can do a feed while I pump for the next one.
What was it like going from one to three children?
It was a whirlwind. But after what we’ve gone through, I’m not going to moan. It’s an amazing life change and chaotic behind the scenes. Zena has been diagnosed with laryngomalacia (a floppy larynx), so we have been to see a specialist, but it’s something she’ll grow out of.
How much pressure do you feel to lose the baby weight?
I don’t pay attention to what other people say. You have to do what is right for you. Breastfeeding burns off an extra 300 calories a day, so I’ve lost weight because of that. I also go power walking with my iCandy double buggy, pushing it up hills and along some tougher terrain to help get back into shape. I’ve also just fitted a dancing pole in my new house and I’m going to get some lessons, as it’s meant to be brilliant for your core.
How do you feel about being a poster girl for 40-plus women trying to conceive?
I wouldn’t call myself a poster girl, but I’ve been candid about the IVF, as there’s a stigma attached to it and I know people have a lot of questions. There are around 50,000 women having IVF in this country, and more women over 40 having children than ever.
What’s the best piece of parenting advice you were given?
Don’t pick your baby up if nothing’s wrong. Xanthe had a habit of waking up several times a night, but after I’d checked and changed her, it was straight back down. If there is nothing wrong, my advice would be to use the 10-minute crying rule – let your baby cry for 10 minutes, then go in and put your hand on her chest to soothe her, then leave the room. If she starts crying again, repeat the process.
Julia uses the iCandy Peach 3 Blossom in Black Magic, iCandyWorld.com