After six unsuccessful cycles of IVF, Paula and Robert were told to give up trying, so they found a different way to complete their family
I remember that day well. It was IVF cycle number four, the first cycle I got told I was pregnant. We were ecstatic. It took us forever to get there. This was the first cycle we had to fund ourselves after being lucky with the NHS “postcode lottery”. Where we lived we had received three funded cycles, which unfortunately were all negative and this was the first one that we had to fund ourselves. It was short lived. I was only eight weeks but I had started to bleed. We had to wait two days for a scan and I remember pleading with the nurse to just fit me in between patients so we would know what was happening.
Two long days later and our hopes and dreams were dashed. As I laid on the hospital bed and scanned, the nurse turned to me and said “Sorry we can’t seem to see anything in the sac”. She then looked at my ovaries and saw a mass, “It looks like you may have an ectopic pregnancy”. How? How could this happen after all we have been through?. “Didn’t you put it in the right place?” I asked the nurse.
We then had to see the consultant who said they wouldn’t do surgery because the pregnancy wasn’t live, there was no heartbeat. Did I want the injection “to get rid of it” or leave it to “come away of natural causes”? I pleaded with the doctor that they operate because I couldn’t just “get rid of it”. Four IVF cycles and now you want to “get rid of my baby?”. In the end I chose to have that injection because I couldn’t wait for nature to take its course.
A whole year later I was ready to go again...
Cycle five negative
Cycle six negative
The Fertility doctor at our clinic then told us he didn’t want to do any more IVF with us, that it would be a waste of our money and more likely look bad on their clinic statistic, there success rate was 33%, so one in three, we hadn’t managed one in six. So we thought we had two choices... either adopt or give up!
We definitely weren’t ready to give up and we would do anything to have our baby, and I wasn’t ready to give up the chance of carrying my own baby. I started to research into using donor eggs and sperm, what the chances were and would we use donor eggs, donor sperm or both? My husband wasn’t entirely sure. We spoke at great lengths about using donor eggs too. I didn’t want him feeling that the baby was more mine then his, and by using both donor eggs and donor sperm we felt equal and that the baby wouldn’t be more mine than his or the other way round.
I found a clinic which had a fantastic donor program and gave us a success rate of 68%. It was two and a half hours away from where we lived but we needed to give it one more chance and I didn’t care what it took. They were really positive and actually gave us the option of trying again with our own eggs and sperm but we declined, the chances of it resulting in a live birth were pretty slim compared to using donor eggs and sperm and I had come round to the idea that this was the best chance we had of having our baby.
We were given some options of donors to choose from. In the UK donating is no longer anonymous. When the child reaches 18 they are able to trace their donors, however, we weren’t allowed to know any identifying information about them. We choose the ones that were most like us. Height and build, hair and eye colour. We were also offered counselling, which was supplied by the clinic. We declined as we felt we had both decided this was the best route for us to complete our family.
We threw everything we had into this cycle, we used a new technique called the EEVA technique, and this stands for Early Embryo Viability Assessment, a non-invasive test used to view an embryo in its early stages of development. Using time lapse technology, images of the embryos development are captured from day one to day three of development. The time-lapse images are assessed by computer software that looks at the patterns and timing of cell division, identifies the further developmental potential of the embryos, and categorises them into “high” and “low.” This then tells the embryologist which embryos are more likely to become blastocysts, this is the ideal point the clinics like the embryos to reach, usually five days after fertilisation as they then have the best chance of implanting and become a healthy pregnancy.
We also used embryo glue which mimics hyaluronan, which occurs naturally in the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Studies have shown that it makes secretions from these organs stickier, aiding fertilisation and implantation.
On your embryo transfer day, your embryos are dipped into the 'glue'. There were seven eggs to use, we got five embryos and three went on to be blastocysts. We had two put back. After all those years and negative cycles almost instantly I knew this was going to work, it was the strangest feeling and so wonderful to finally feel so positive.
After what felt like the longest week I did a pregnancy test and it showed I was pregnant! To make sure I went to the doctors and had a blood test, The hcg result was over 300! This high level meant that there was a good chance of the baby being where it should be and possibly even multiples.
At seven weeks we had a scan... OMG IT'S TWINS!! We were told not to be too excited because one of them was very small and they weren’t sure it would make it. At a follow up scan two weeks later unfortunately the smaller baby hadn’t survived but we still had one. As sad as we were, we felt elation that we had a little baby in the right place.
Those next few weeks were so painful emotionally, I was on edge constantly and so we went for a private scan to make sure all was OK... and it was! After seven cycles, seven years of pain, countless surgeries, 1,500 injections and around £12,000.
If I was asked what I had learnt from our experience it would be to never give up on our dream of becoming parents. We learnt that our relationship was so strong that nothing was going to stop us, that miracles do happen, and that the love for another human being, regardless of genes and DNA is so strong that sometimes you wonder how you can possibly love someone so much you will do anything for them!
My advice for anyone considering heading in the same direction and using donors is don’t be scared and don’t worry about what other people think.
People see what they want to see! We even now have people say, "Wow, doesn’t she look like her daddy!" I just laugh in my head and respond: “Oh, do you think so?”. We have never had any negative comments from people who know. They think we are brave for going for it to get our dream, I don’t think we are brave at all, I think we wanted something so much that we did everything we had to do to get it!
We went back to try with our final embryo just after our daughters first birthday, it wasn’t meant to be and that is fine. It closed our journey with IVF and donors and we are happy and content with being a family of three. We now have a very happy, healthy almost four year old! I’m so glad we didn’t give up when the doctor suggested it. We love our little miracle so much, and had we not done what we did she would never have existed.