This personal story was written by Emma in 2018.
‘But once in a while the odd thing happens
Once in a while the dream comes true
And the whole pattern of life is altered
Once in a while the moon turns blue.'
In my mind, our story is unremarkable. I met Ian in 1994 through a mutual friend but we waited until 2009 before we got married (Ian doesn’t believe in rushing things!). Attempts to have a child the conventional way were not successful, so we were referred on to have further tests and investigations. The nature of the NHS meant that everything took a lot longer than it should and we ended up having our first round of IVF in 2013. In amongst all of this we moved home twice and changed jobs.Tragically, Ian lost both his parents (within 6 days of each other) as well. But without the inheritance that resulted, our journey would never have even begun. Because of our ages we were not even granted our first round of treatment for free and when that did not work we had three further rounds (via a private clinic), which were also unsuccessful but still had to be paid for.
The only reason the doctors could come up with to explain our problem was that my eggs were too old. But we hoped to prove them wrong. We wanted OUR child and couldn't think of anything that could be more worthwhile to invest the inheritance on.
Up until that point, I wasn’t sure about egg donation. A friend had mentioned it (she has a son via ED) and I explained that I wasn’t ready to consider it (just prior to my final failed cycle with my own eggs). I did however, attend an information day on donation and found lots of inspiration – a father who had a family via sperm donation, a mother and her donor conceived son. Ian didn’t come with me as he had attended a previous event but felt depressed by the stories shared rather than supported. Each tale had emphasised the hurdles and obstacles that prevented loving and hopeful couples from having the family they so desired. Unlike me, he was open to the idea of ED and felt that it should be an avenue we could consider but that it was my choice and he would support any decision I took. Well, the event opened my mind and I found the letters on the DC website inspiring. ED increased our chance of having a child and we couldn't keep going through the heartbreak of failed attempts. This would be our last attempt regardless of whether we used my eggs or someone else's.
Given our ages (I was 42 at the time and Ian was 43), we felt that trying to seek a known donor would be more difficult and time-consuming so we chose to use a Spanish Clinic, linked to a Clinic at home in Northern Ireland. We had some counselling sessions to prepare us and ensure we knew what we were doing. We found the whole process very simple – we spent a lovely week in Spain relaxing between appointments. Everything just seemed right.
I had two blastocysts implanted. We were excited but after four failures before we couldn't trust that this would work for us. The first 12 weeks went by so slowly – being IVF, we had scans at 6 and 8 weeks before the first major scan at 10 weeks or so but the time between them seemed like an eternity. It was clear immediately that we had lost one of our two chances. But, appointment by appointment, we watched our last throw of the dice thrive. Soon enough, the time came and our son was born at 7.07pm on the 7th July (7th month) weighing 7lb 7oz. If anything was ever meant to be it was him.
We are only really beginning our journey - we are trying to be open with him about his story. We have the book and we have been to an event with the Ireland branch (we plan to attend more). There will be interesting and challenging times ahead and that’s purely from a parenting point of view!
What would we want other parents/prospective parents/those considering donor conception to know?
- I was worried that I wouldn’t feel like he was mine. Carrying him for 9 months and being able to feed him myself has created a strong bond. I AM his mother, he IS my son.
- There is no denying that this is an expensive process. But it could be the best money you have ever spent.
- Being patient doesn't work. Time was ticking for us, it might be for you. Relying on the administration to take you through the process at the speed you would like is unrealistic. If you want things to happen, chase them up and do your homework to prepare yourself and prevent delays.
- Spain seemed more 'efficient' than the UK.
- Some people harvest 14 eggs or more, some have less. But at the end of the day it only takes one to make your dreams come true.