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Sheila’s Story

by Infertility Blows
Sheila’s Story

Our miracle rainbow baby is now eight years old, and a half, as she always reminds us. Our miracle only happened because of a very generous unknown woman who donated her eggs. We wouldn’t change a thing about our infertility journey and how we made our family. She is so much our daughter and always has been since we first met her as a Day 2, two cell embryo. I remember the fertility nurse calling us that morning to tell us today was transfer day. She said ‘You have two, two cell embryos and one, I’m sure it’s a girl, is jumping up and down, waving saying ‘pick me!’ From that moment our baby was mine, not the donors, and we loved her.

I was 40 and my husband 29 when we started to try for a family, so I had it in my mind that it may be a struggle. After a year of trying we were referred to a fertility clinic where we were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’. Our first fertility treatment was an intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle that resulted in a negative pregnancy test, or BFN. The clinic advised, due to my age, that we move straight to IVF so we did an ICSI cycle with pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) – out of 6 eggs that were collected all fertilised, but only one had the correct number of chromosomes. This cycle also ended in a BFN. The clinic said that the PGS showed that my eggs were unlikely to result in a pregnancy and we should consider donor eggs. We weren’t ready to go down this route so we carried on trying naturally and I did acupuncture with Chinese medicine, we cut out alcohol, neither of us smoked and we ate as much organic food as we could. But three years later still no pregnancy.

We decided to see Zita West, a fertility specialist in London because we just didn’t know what to do next. She advised that she felt our only chance was to use a donor egg. My husband was very adamant that he didn’t want to do it in the UK because the donor wouldn’t be anonymous and also there was a long waiting time; I wasn’t worried whether the donor was anonymous or not, and as I don’t have younger sisters our only choice was a stranger. About two months after seeing Zita, I was reading an article in a newspaper about a couple who had gone to Spain for donor egg IVF. Obviously we thought long and hard about trying for a baby with a donor’s eggs, but I guess we had got used to the idea over the last three years. Although we mourned the fact that any baby born wouldn’t be mine biologically, I would carry it for 9 months, nurture it, feel it move and give birth, so as far as we were concerned, it was my baby and I would be its Mum.  

Once we had made this decision it felt like the right way to have our family and it was really exciting. We didn’t know much about the donor, but she must have been a kind, generous woman to go through being stimulated to donate her eggs. We didn’t tell anyone in our families until we were pregnant after our first donor egg ICSI cycle. We had made an appointment for a scan for 6 weeks and finally it was the day. We were so excited that we would finally get to see our peanut. But there was no peanut. There was no baby, just a lot of blood in my womb. We were devastated as we really hadn’t expected we would have a miscarriage – or technically a chemical pregnancy – but it was our baby we were going to lose. A couple of days before Christmas when the town we lived in was gridlocked because of heavy snow, I lost our peanut in Matalan’s staff toilet. I’m sad to say that when we told people we had miscarried most were not very supportive. I’m not sure if it’s because they hadn’t had the joy of hearing we were pregnant so to them, there never was a baby, or if it was that they didn’t know what to say.

A couple of months later when I had turned 46, we started preparing for another donor egg cycle with a different donor. In the meantime I had come across a book by Dr Alan Beer called ‘Is your body baby friendly?’ and after contacting a miscarriage consultant in the UK, I had blood tests for immune issues and Thrombophilia, a condition which increases the risk of blood clots, because I have a family history of blood clots. All the tests came back negative – which was a real surprise to me because I had been on baby aspirin for the previous cycle and I was sure that was why I had got pregnant but had the miscarriage. But the consultant agreed that I could do the treatment anyway, (a steroid, baby aspirin and a blood thinning injection) on our next cycle and our clinic was happy with this. Again, we had two, Day 2 embryo’s transferred, both two cells and very much our babies when we saw them on the monitor. It is quite a privilege to see your children so soon in their development – there isn’t much that’s good about doing IVF but this moment is pretty amazing.

I went to our local hospital for the blood test and then we waited for it to be the afternoon so we could call the doctor’s surgery for the result. But the clinic rang before we got our results – I should’ve had the blood test the previous day, that was test day! I must have been enjoying the two-week wait!! I’m sure I’m the only woman who not only never peed on a stick (I was too scared to), but also tested one day after test day. The result was an hCG of 528 – we were very pregnant! We will never know if doing the treatment for immune issues I didn’t have made the difference, but my gut instinct tells me it did.

No-one has ever said to me or my husband that our daughter isn’t my baby. In fact, people who didn’t know used to say, when she was a toddler, that she looked like me! ‘She has your mouth’ one person said. When they said this a little smile would touch my lips and I’d think ‘If you only knew’. You see even if you use a donor egg, something called epigenetics comes into play. Once the embryo is in your womb, it starts to inherit its characteristics through the placenta, the womb lining, the nutrients you eat and so on. You, the baby’s Mummy, will nurture and carry that embryo, imprinting your unique features and personality into your child. The baby you give birth to will be totally different to the baby the donor would have delivered had she carried it. And this is why the baby is yours. 

I used to tell our daughter when she was a baby the story of how she came to be, and that she was very special and how much we wanted her. Every day I thank the woman who donated her eggs so that our daughter would be in our lives. When she was eight, we told her that Mummy’s eggs didn’t make babies so a kind lady gave us some of her eggs. She said at that time ‘So is she my Mum?’ and my husband said ‘No, you were in Mummy’s tummy, she’s your Mummy’. ‘Oh, OK then’ she said and went off to play. Whether she will ask more questions when she’s older we’ll have to wait and see. But without the donor egg, our beautiful, kind, funny, generous daughter wouldn’t be in our lives, and that thought is unimaginable.

Infertility is a life-changing event and I really wanted to give something back to the community, because infertility wasn’t going away. A few years after our daughter was born, I started an online fertility magazine and met many wonderful fertility experts, and would often speak with women who contacted me through the magazine. Although I loved doing the magazine I really wanted to just write and help the TTC community through books, so I wrote a free eBook The Best fertility Jargon Buster; the most concise A – Z list of fertility abbreviations and acronyms you will ever need that you can download from this link www.mfsbooks.co.uk.

In Nov 2019 I published my first book, My Fertility Book; all the fertility and infertility explanations you will ever need, from A to Z. I’m now working on a series of books that are contributions from real people who have been through infertility, fertility treatments, the two-week wait, miscarriage and donor egg/sperm/embryo – they are sharing their experiences and feelings in the hope that it will support and help those going through infertility now. But also, I’m hoping these books will be given to family and friends who haven’t been through infertility, but on reading about others who have, will better understand and be more supportive and not say “Just relax” and “Have you tried <insert crazy recommendation here>?”  

Thank you for reading my story and I really hope it helps if you are considering using a donor. Good luck.

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