Made with love, our IVF baby
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A mother who needed to find a way to explain IVF to her toddler has created a charming picture book, peopled by a family of friendly blobs.
Little Linus was made with love – and a jigsaw of help from his mum, doctors and a sperm donor.
Now he can find out about his birth, and before and beyond, from a picture book.
Blib, Blob and Blub are the characters created by his mum, Bianca Neumann-May, to explain in vitro fertilisation (or IVF) to young children.
Mummyblib and Daddyblob have pieces of the jigsaw, and then doctors have to work out how to put the whole picture together and make a Babyblub.
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'When you go through fertility treatment at a decent clinic you get offered a counselling session,' said Bianca. 'They cover what you might do when the child asks where they came from or, for our child, when he asks why he doesn't have a dad or who his dad might be.'
Linus, now 17 months, was conceived through IVF with the help of the Bourne Hall fertility clinic in Wymondham. His parents are Bianca and her partner Hannah, who live in Harleston, in the Waveney valley. Bianca works as a psychologist with people who have had strokes and Hannah also works for the NHS.
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'It's best practice to tell the children,' said Bianca. 'As a psychologist I have to think about how the child will feel. Everyone who has had IVF is probably wondering when the child will start asking questions.'
And so she began writing a book for her baby, and other children like him.
'We are all encouraged to read books to our children. The book takes the responsibility a little bit away from the parents. It gets the conversation started and then they can fill in the gaps,' she said.
Using simple words and concepts the book takes young children through the series of decisions and appointments which lead to each new IVF baby.
It is written for babies and children up to the age of around eight, and their families, and dedicated to: 'All the children made with love and tons of hope.'
Blib, Blob and Blub begins with a Mummyblib and Daddyblob 'who love each other very much.' There are different versions of the book for parents in straight or same sex relationships, but when each story gets to: 'Other Blubs have Babyblubs. Babyblubs make other Blubs very happy,' the adults realise something is missing from their lives and go in search of the other parts of the jigsaw they need to create a Babyblub.
The book finishes: 'Mummyblib and Daddyblob were very happy. Finally their miracle baby had arrived. Now they could have lots of fun and adventures together.'
One of the first adventures has been creating the book, and beginning to share it with Linus.
But Bianca's story does not gloss over the difficulties of trying to conceive through IVF. 'We were lucky, living in south Norfolk we had three cycles funded. The first was an early miscarriage, the second was Linus,' she said. 'The worst thing about it was all the really artificial processes. Parents normally make a decision to try for a baby and then hope for the best and there is fun and excitement and the unknown. With IVF everything is scheduled and clinical and you have to go through quite painful tests. You don't realise how tiring and stressful it will be and there is really quite a small chance of a baby.
'We feel very lucky to have Linus.'
The book was a real family production, with Hannah's dad, Nigel, helping with the illustrations.
'I started with a scribble!' admitted Bianca. 'I'm not an artist. I made some small drawings and spoke to my father-in-law, who is a good artist and he took my scribbles and converted them into watercolours, but kept most of my original drawings because he said he wanted to capture the heart of the book.'
The story and its cast of charming characters presents a complex concept in a way that very young children can begin to grasp, and Bianca said it should help answer questions and spark conversations.
'Rather than focusing on terminology like daddy's sperm and mummy's egg I decided to use the example of a jigsaw, in case it isn't actually mummy's or daddy's genetic material, but it still tells the child that each parent gives a necessary piece of the jigsaw, whether that's essentially love or genetic material,' said Bianca. 'Perhaps the IVF child is having a sibling also through IVF and needs to understand why there are hospital appointments and needles, and parents having mood swings. When we had the mandatory counselling session we were advised to think of how we want to tell our child about his journey and origin.'
The science of IVF has given Bianca and Hannah the chance of motherhood and this Sunday they will be celebrating the love involved too, on their second Mother's Day with Linus. 'I think we will probably go to the playground. Maybe next year we will get him to draw a little picture for us!' said Bianca.
Blib, Blob and Blub is available from the website lifegavemelemons.co.uk for £9.99 including postage and packaging.