It’s no wonder that Home and Away star Penny McNamee has become engrossed in her character Tori Morgan’s quest to have a child.
For in real life, Penny has discovered she’s going to become a mother for the second time. And to Penny and her husband Matt Tooker, parents to 3-year-old son Jack, it’s truly a blessing.
As Penny candidly reveals to New Idea, she struggled with fertility issues for many years.
Unaware until she underwent surgery earlier this year that she was suffering from endometriosis, which affects a woman’s reproductive organs, the 35-year-old actress had difficulty conceiving both Jack and her unborn child.
“I had the surgery, and typically doctors say that you really need to fall pregnant within the first six months after. That’s your best chance because the endometriosis hasn’t started to grow back yet,” she says. “We had planned to try for six months and then the next step for us was IVF. So to fall pregnant in the fifth month – we just felt such relief and gratitude. I was a little bit sceptical at first and didn’t want to get my hopes up.”
As for Matt, 36, the director of a marketing agency, he couldn’t contain his excitement.
“He was just bouncing off the walls,” laughs Penny, who is due in March. “It was lovely to have that reaction.”
To Penny, being open about her fertility struggles was extremely important. “It was quite a journey to figure out the diagnosis for me, and that’s why I’m so vocal about it,” she reflects. “I don’t want other women to lose years trying to work out why they can’t conceive. I’d prefer them to know the signs and the symptoms, to hopefully prevent them from going through years of not knowing and the heartache.”
Now four months pregnant, Penny is happy to report she’s feeling healthy and well – at last. “I was very sick for eight weeks, with terrible morning sickness all day long,” she reveals. “It was incredibly hard hiding it at work. I had to keep walking off after scenes and hiding from the world for a little while before popping back again.
“But I had that sickness a lot longer with Jack, so it was the most amazing and wonderful surprise at the 12-week mark when I stopped feeling sick. Now I feel like the whole world is a happy place!”
As for her alter ego, Penny says we’ll have to watch and see whether Tori’s dream to become a mother is finally realised. “Like so many women, she goes through a lot of ups and downs on her fertility journey,” Penny says. “I obviously feel a very strong connection to it. It’s been an emotional storyline – really poignant and special for me.”
And viewers will be pleased to know that Penny won’t be taking time out from the Bay for some months yet. “I’ve said to our producers that I’ll stay on for as long as my body holds up,” she says. “Probably at the eight-month mark, I’ll step off set to have a rest.
“My mum’s best friend once said to me: ‘Never go into having a baby exhausted. Always be fresh, because it’s all downhill from here in terms of exhaustion!’ and I thought that’s very wise advice.
“More than anything, we’re just so excited that our son Jack will have the experience of having a brother or sister and that this baby will have that experience too. We couldn’t be happier.”
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This article originally appeared on New Idea.