There are times – usually during the 3am feed – when Suzy Clarkson gazes at the tiny baby nestled in her arms and thinks, “Wow, here you are. At long last. I really have had another baby.”
Sometimes it’s still hard for the former Prime newsreader to believe that, after three emotional and physically gruelling years of fertility treatments, she conceived and carried a baby to full term. But she did, and two-month-old Toby Colin Clarkson is living proof miracles can happen.
“Sometimes I’ll be sitting there in the middle of the night feeding him, and I’ll cast my mind back to the journey to get him – the endless injections, the hope, and the despondency,” says Suzy (45).
Her first son, Ben, was conceived naturally when she was 39. But she went through four cycles of IVF and had two miscarriages in her quest to have a second child.
“I look down and there he is, my baby. He really is a little miracle,” she adds.
Sitting at her kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee while Toby is having his afternoon sleep, Suzy remembers the incredible relief she felt when Toby was conceived on what she and husband Tim realised was most likely their last shot at having another baby. Earlier in that fourth cycle of IVF, Suzy got pregnant, but lost the baby. She had five frozen embryos left and two were transferred to her womb, but the procedure wasn’t successful.
When the final three embryos were transferred Suzy knew this was her last chance – she didn’t think she could go through yet another round of IVF.
The couple was shocked but delighted to learn she was pregnant, and Suzy was on tenterhooks for much of the pregnancy, with the fear of losing the baby constantly hanging over her.
In the end, the pregnancy progressed normally and Toby was born, weighing a healthy 3.6kg (8lb) on February 22.
He was two weeks early and the birth wasn’t quite as straightforward as Suzy had hoped because part way through labour Toby decided to turn around and ended up
in the posterior position.
“That slowed everything down,” recalls Suzy.
Still, he arrived after six hours of labour (longer than big brother Ben, who was delivered after four) during which Suzy had nearly every form of pain relief available.
“We all like the idea of having a natural childbirth, but it was pretty painful and I had the full repertoire of pain relief – gas, pethidine, a drip and an epidural.”
Because he was posterior, Toby was born with a bruised face and also had jaundice, but was otherwise well.
Suzy says it took a couple of days to get used to being in charge of a tiny being again.
“It all comes back pretty quickly and the second time around it is easier in many ways because you’ve been through it before. We’ve found we’re not walking around on eggshells as much as we did with Ben.”
Toby is now going through the delightful stage of giving his parents lovely gummy smiles and cooing happily when he sees them.
But Suzy is quick to admit that along with the moments of pure joy there are plenty of times when life with a newborn is not a bed of roses.
“People seem to think that when you have been through so much to have a baby, you should feel that every single moment with them is wonderful. Yes, it is so wonderful to have Toby, but the reality is it is tough.
“Really little babies are very hard work. They’re relentless, they need you constantly. Just when you think you’ve got things sussed, everything changes.”
If things seem harder this time around, it’s because Toby is more of a challenge than his big brother was, rather than because Suzy is in her mid-forties.
“We did have it pretty easy with Ben. He was sleeping through by eight weeks, whereas Toby isn’t. He’s a lot more spirited, and he’s windier, thanks to having elements of colic. That has been hard.
“There are days when I feel so knackered, I think, ‘I just can’t do anything,’ but doesn’t tiredness get to all new mums? It’s just what you go through.”
One thing Suzy has had to come to terms with again is how difficult it becomes to do anything other than look after the little one.
“There are days when I just can’t get anything done other than look after Toby,” says Suzy, who left TV after a long broadcasting career to work as the corporate affairs manager for Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand.
“I’ve had to adjust my ideas about what I can and can’t do, and that’s a challenge for me. But I think hormones and the tiredness help. They make you slow down and think, ‘I will just do what I can do today, other things can wait until tomorrow.’
I feel a bit like Scarlett O’Hara, I’m often thinking, ‘Tomorrow is another day!’”
Suzy has chosen to keep things low-key in Toby’s first few months, in an effort to get him into a routine so that he won’t be overstimulated.
“We don’t go out doing a lot of tripping around, so I am fairly housebound, but that’s okay, that’s my choice. I think it is important to do that for your child when they are starting out.”
If she does need to go out on her own, she can call on a nanny, who is an ex-Karitane nurse.
She has lots of support from her mother, Hannah Aiken, and of course she can hand Toby over to Tim when he’s home.
“I’m very lucky to have Mum and Tim, who are just fantastic, and also Ben. He adores his little brother and is very helpful, fetching things for me.”
One of the reasons Suzy went through so much to have Toby is that she felt it was important for Ben to have a sibling. She and Tim both come from close families and wanted their son to experience that.
They’re delighted to see how taken he is with Toby – although he is impatient for his little brother to grow up and be able to kick a football around.
While Suzy knows people might question why she and Tim kept putting themselves through such an ordeal to have Toby when they already had one child, there are no doubts that they did the right thing.
“We were out in the car the other day, and I looked around at the four of us and I thought, ‘This just feels right.’ We were happy, the three of us, but now Toby is here, there is a deep sense of satisfaction. My family is complete.”
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
Suzy credits breastfeeding with helping her to get back in size eight jeans, just two months after Toby was born. It’s certainly not down to dieting, she says.
“My appetite is obscene, I seem to eat non-stop,” she admits. “I have a sweet tooth and I’ve been eating things like caramel slices.”
A fitness fan, who was the face of aerobics in New Zealand in the 1980s and 90s, Suzy is exercising whenever she is able to, but for now it’s gentle walking and exercises targeting her abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
Although she was relatively fit before Toby was conceived and did appropriate exercise during pregnancy, like those of all new mums, her body did go through a saggy stage after he was born.
In fact, Suzy is writing a book about being fit and healthy during pregnancy and after giving birth. As well as offering researched information – Suzy was a physiotherapist before going into TV – it will also include her own experiences. It is due to be published next Year.
Photo: Jae Frew • Hair & Make-Up: Claudia Rodrigues • Styling: Tamzyn Elliott