When 45-year-old Cara Lyons found out she was pregnant after undergoing IVF at Barbados Fertility Centre, there were no big hurrahs or grand celebrations. Instead, she and her husband, Mike, remained “cautiously optimistic.”
They had been down this road before. The couple – she is of Afro-Caribbean descent and he is Caucasian American – had suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage in 2014 and had been through cycles of intrauterine insemination and IVF in their home state, California, as well as in Prague, Czech Republic.
In Prague, the couple had a bunch of staggered egg retrievals with the hope that some would be good enough to be fertilized. But the process took the mixed race couple down another rabbit hole; the tests revealed a lot of chromosomal genetic issues with Cara’s eggs. Using donated eggs to start their family was an alternative worth considering.
“Here in the US there are not a whole lot of donors of colour so for every 100 Caucasian donors there were just a few African American or black Caribbean donors. When we began our donor research, I was impressed with the fact that Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC) had such a vast network of donors, people, who look more like me,” said Cara.
Dr Juliet Skinner, Barbados Fertility Centre’s medical director, knows it’s a big jump for a couple like the Lyons to go from recognising they need fertility treatment, to being prepared to use donor gametes but the fact is there a real need among women who cannot become pregnant using their own eggs, and an even a greater one among couples of Afro Caribbean/ American descent or even mixed race couples.
“There are many women, older women, who for a variety of reasons (lack of money, lack of partner, lack of interest, lack of partner’s interest) didn’t have children in their biological prime and there are also many younger women with non functioning ovaries who are unable to get pregnant,” says Dr. Skinner.
“Because of our location and our reputation for rigorous adherence to ethics and the medical protocols associated with egg donation, we are fortunate to have a robust egg donation programme that has afforded many couples of varied ethnicities the ability to become parents.”
After Cara’s and Mike initial consultation with Dr. Skinner, the couple’s resolve was strong. “I felt like BFC did everything with due diligence and extreme care, that they had already pre-screened the donors and had done all the necessary blood work and history checks. I felt confident in their hands because of their reputation.”
Dr. Skinner identified some immune issues and put the couple in touch with the Alan Beer Institute in California, so they were able to tackle some immune issues before heading to Barbados where they underwent a successful cycle of IVF. “Had Dr. Skinner not spotted that and have us tackle the immune issue, I don’t think we would have had success.”
The Lyons’ first trimester were anxious months; hope and fear did a tango in a dance where it was not always clear which would win. “It was only after the first trimester that I felt like I could breathe a little, find release and not be so worried.”
Quincy Lyons was born on July 11th in Berkley, California. “He’s amazing,” gushed the new parents. “It’s like having a unicorn in the room. It’s magical, it’s surreal.”
The Lyons still have three embryos already frozen at Barbados Fertility Centre and the possibility of the future does not escape them. “Right now Quincy is the only unicorn. Whether we have more unicorns or not, we’ll have to see how things go. We’re flexible.”