Facing disappointment after trying to find a sperm donor on her own, Emma attended an Open Day with her partner at the London Women’s Clinic in Darlington, where she was told about the Egg Sharing Programme.
“I’d spent a year and a half trying to find a known donor willing to perform home insemination. After pursuing this risky option and being disappointed on several occasions, I could no longer have my dream of starting a family left in the hands of someone else’s decision making. I decided it was time to take control and make it happen.”
Open Day at LWC Darlington
With a little research and a look on the parenting section of Stonewall’s website I decided to find out more about the London Women’s Clinic. I was excited to find that they had a clinic just 20 minutes away from us in Darlington, so after speaking with my civil partner we booked into an Open Day. That was back in March 2012.
We were very nervous but we were made to feel very welcome and everyone was very friendly. We met several of the nursing staff, including business co-ordinator, Sarah, who was to be a big support to us through the whole process.
It was during this Open Day that we were introduced to Dr Ashour, one of the consultants at the clinic. He took us into his office to discuss treatment options and explained about the costs and process of IUI and IVF. Dr Ashour also mentioned that we could be accepted for the Egg Sharing Programme, as my BMI and health were within the acceptable levels.
One good turn deserves another
As soon as I’d heard this I decided that this was the option for me! We left the clinic with lots to think about, but it didn’t take us long to agree that egg sharing was the best option for us.
As a lesbian couple we knew that donor sperm was the only option to get pregnant. Because of this it felt right that we in turn could help someone else who was as desperate as we were to have a child.
The process to pregnancy begins
Within two weeks we’d made our decision, booked an appointment and I’d had my first blood tests. From here the waiting game began. Blood tests and internal scans were needed to check my fertility, ovaries and for any genetic problems. Luckily all came back clear and we were ready to progress to the next step – the injections!
As my partner was very squeamish I knew that I was going to have to do this alone! With a bit of tuition from the nursing staff I began to inject, alternate sides of my stomach, at the same time each night. Before we knew it I was booked in for my three internal scans leading up to what we were here for – the egg retrieval and embryo transfer dates.
At the last scan the nurses told me I would need a bit more time as my ovaries hadn’t quite reached the size required for the go ahead. After a nervous weekend we returned to the clinic on the Monday to find they had grown substantially and we were now all set. In just two days we would be going for egg retrieval! On the Monday night I took the last injection and could only hope that all would be well.
I’d not slept very well in the lead up to the egg retrieval and woke up in the early hours full of nerves. My partner on the other hand was doing her best to be the cool, calm and collected and had to be forced out of bed!
We got to the clinic and were greeted by Sarah who asked how I was feeling. I told her I had never felt so nervous and she did her best to calm me. All I could think about was the sedation, as I had never been sedated before, and the amount of eggs that would be found.
I went through to my cubicle where I was given a gown to change into and a tray with three pessaries that I was asked to insert. As I waited to be called to the treatment room, my partner looked across at me. In that moment I knew that although I was physically going in on my own, she would be with me in spirit.
I was called across by the nursing staff and after a few checks were made, to make sure they had the right person, they laid me on the bed and began the sedation. It was now that Dr Ashour came in and calmly talked me through what he was about to do. After a bit of pushing and pulling it was all done.
I returned to the cubicle to sit and wait for the result. I was told that I had only produced eight eggs. At that moment my heart sank as I thought this would mean the end of the road for us, but Dr Ashour gave me three options. I could give all eight eggs to my recipient, keep all eight eggs for myself, or share four eggs with the recipient and have four for myself. He then left my partner and I in our cubicle to discuss our options.
It felt like an age but in reality it didn’t take too long to decide what to do. I knew I didn’t want to be the person to put a stop to someone else’s dreams. I told Dr Ashour that I was still happy to share and that if the recipient was happy then we should continue as planned! Within less than five minutes the recipient had accepted my offer and we were back on track.
Fertilising the eggs
All we could do was wait for the phone to ring. Within an hour of leaving the clinic it rang and I answered it like a bag of nerves! It was Karen, the embryologist, informing me that she had looked at the donor sperm and from first glance it looked good. She informed me she would be inseminating my four eggs and would ring the next day to let me know how it had gone.
After the longest 24 hours ever, Karen rang early the next morning to let me know that three of the four eggs had successfully fertilised and booked us in for embryo transfer on the Monday at 9am!
Monday came pretty quickly and five days after retrieval I had one blastocyst that was a day behind in growth and two that were doing well. Of these two the stronger was selected for transfer. At this point my partner was given some attractive blue slips for her shoes as she could come and join me in the treatment room. We both entered, feeling nervous, while I was also feeling very uncomfortable with a full bladder that I needed for the external scan.
Karen handed Dr Ashour the tube with the egg in and after a matter of a couple of minutes the transfer was complete. In the words of Dr Ashour, it was in the hands of nature! The following day Karen rang to let us know she was able to freeze two embryos for future use.
Waiting for the dream to become reality
One week into the dreaded two-week wait and I can promise you it felt like the longest wait of our lives! With our three-year wedding anniversary coming up the following week, I just hoped that we would have the best gift anyone could hope for – our dream becoming a reality!
Sadly things didn’t go to plan. I took the test and it read positive – we were pregnant! We rushed to the clinic for a blood test to see what was happening and then left. Within an hour Dr Ashour rang with the news that still breaks my heart – I was having a miscarriage.
Hold onto your dream
We tried two more times, but both attempts were unsuccessful. Now in 2015, money has run dry, jobs have been lost, the relationship has even come to an end, and I have moved back to my spiritual home of Liverpool. I now have a new love in my life but my hopes and dreams are still there.
You may wonder, as I remain childless, why I decided to tell my story. My message to you is never give up on your hopes and dreams. I haven’t. And one day I will walk hand in hand with a child who calls me mummy.
If you’re inspired by Emma’s story and want to find out more about our Egg Sharing Programme, please give us a call on 020 7563 4309 to speak to a member our team who will be able to offer you expert advice and support.
Emma received treatment at our Darlington Clinic, we also have clinics in Cardiff, Swansea and London.
The London Women’s Clinic provides IVF and fertility treatments to help couples and individuals overcome their difficulties with conception and pregnancy. We have been treating lesbian couples and single women for over a decade with more than 3000 women attending our clinics across the UK for treatment with donor sperm.
Visit their website to speak to a Patient Coordinator, and find out more about how they can help you with counselling and support groups.