Alex, and her sisters, Helen and Charlotte told their wonderful story at the Bristol meeting this summer, for clarity this version as if by Charlotte.
Alex was only 28 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The aggressive radiation and chemo therapy needed would leave her infertile.
Alex had always wanted children so, as you can imagine, this was a bit of a blow - in fact Alex found this harder to deal with than the cancer its self. She knew she could fight the cancer, but there was nothing she could do to overcome the infertility. Or so she thought.
Me - Charlotte, Alex’s twin sister had, rather jokingly, offered eggs to Alex during one of her chemo sessions. I had already had my family so this wasn’t going to be a problem. Little did I know that this joking offer would turn into something much more serious. Helen, Alex’s older sister, had also written telling her “…if there is anything I can ever do for you in the future, please don’t hesitate to ask”.
A few years after Alex competed her treatment, she and husband Shaun had come to the decision that they didn’t want to adopt and so began to look at the possibility of surrogacy. They contacted the charity organisation Childlessness Overcome through Surrogacy (COTS) for some impartial advice. Alex had in mind what both her sisters had offered.
COTS advised that using Charlotte’s eggs fertilised with husband Shaun’s sperm, she would be able to have a child with the closest possible relationship to her and Shaun.
With this in mind Alex approached both Helen and I to see if we were serious about our offers.
After Helen and I had seen a councillor from the COTS organisation, we gave Alex our answers. We were (of course) both delighted to help Alex and Shaun get the baby they so desperately wanted. I would provide the eggs but because my three pregnancies had been quite difficult I didn’t want to carry the child…so Helen would do the carrying.
Alex approached the Bath Assisted Conception Clinic to see if they would be happy to treat them. After the three of us girls and our partners went through some more counselling, all the staff at the BACC agreed to carry out the procedures required to make this much wanted child.
Helen and I took a course of drugs to get our bodies in sync, then I began hormone injections to stimulate my ovaries ito grow more eggs. Twelve eggs in all were harvested and then fertilised with Shaun’s sperm. Finally the fertilised eggs were implanted in Helen’s womb.
After an agonising two week wait, Alex and Shaun travelled to Clevedon to be with Helen and I when she did a pregnancy test. Luckily the IVF treatment had worked first time and Helen was pregnant. An ecstatic Alex then went back to London to wait 8 months for the arrival of her baby.
It was difficult for Alex to stay focused on work during those 8 months. She travelled to see Helen as often as she could and attended nearly all of the midwife appointments.
Helen and Alex felt it was important to include me with the pregnancy and I was invited to all of the scans (there were six in all!) and I was at hand to support Helen on a more day-to-day basis.
As the end of the pregnancy drew near Alex was torn. She wanted to be in London with her husband yet she felt a desperate need to be closer to Helen. So she arranged for some work in the local area, kissed Shaun goodbye and headed to Clevedon.
Alex spent the next three weeks rushing through work and spending as much time as possible with Helen. Helen was very generous with her time and put up with Alex’s invasion of her life. In fact they put themselves to good work and sorted out Helen’s children’s bedrooms and planned to decorate the lounge – nesting I think!!
As it drew near the due date Alex and I fed Helen pineapple and hot curries but to no avail - baby was happy where he was. It was not until Father’s Day that Helen went into labour – a week early.
Although Alex had been trying to bring the bring the birth on, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it once it had arrived. Helen was in labour but wanted a private day with just her partner and children.
However Shaun was summoned from London and Alex called on me to hold her hand to stop it from shaking!! We then spent the rest of the day thinking of excuses to visit Helen!
Finally Helen gave Alex and Shaun the go ahead to come around. Helen was now in pain with the contractions and Alex could do nothing - she felt helpless. It was decided that Alex and Shaun would go home to prepare for a long night without sleep as Helen felt the birth was a long way off.
As Alex was preparing herself for the night ahead Helen’s partner called to say that the waters had broken…he said that the midwife had been called and told Shaun that he and Helen owed him a new carpet!
Then it was all go - sorting bags and cars and prepared to head off to the hospital. But Baby had other plans and made it perfectly clear to Helen that he was not going to wait for the hospital and was on his way NOW.
Back in the house they rushed around to find towels and plastic – the only thing they could find was the children’s painting mat which Helen steadfastly refused to give birth on! However while she was distracted with a contraction they covered the mat with towels and moved her over it!
From that point on Charlie George Patrick was born very quickly, straight into his mother’s arms. Alex cut the cord and wrapped him up for his first cuddle with his mum and dad. I was amazed at what a beautiful boy I had helped to create. I helped Shaun to make Charlie’s first bottle while Helen and Alex gazed at Charlie in wonder as he took in the world around him.
Alex says that Helen and I are the bravest most giving people that any sister could want… and that she will be eternally grateful for their precious gift.