That time is here again when the whole country is off with their family to celebrate Mothering Sunday, but for some women it is a very painful and difficult day to get through, especially if your only wish is to be a Mother.
Infertility is not only a medical condition, but also an incredibly emotional journey that can consume decades of a woman’s life. This Mother’s Day I wanted to write a blog that acknowledges all the women who are still trying to be a mother and inspire them with 3 case studies of women who have struggled with infertility for over 40 years between them!
Harriet Johnson is an Osteopath from London who, aged 49, is finally going to be celebrating Mother’s Day with both her children after 18 years of secondary infertility.
Harriet married in her early twenties and conceived her first daughter when she was 26. At 32, she & her husband decided the time was right to try for a sibling and that is where her infertility journey began. After years and years of trying, Harriet just could not conceive a second time.
Despite numerous tests in the UK, no explanation could be provided as to why she was not conceiving. Sadly aged 42, Harriet and her husband divorced. It was then that she decided to look in to adoption. The London Boroughs are crying out for families to adopt and with a good job and a teenage daughter at home, it seemed like the perfect time. Harriet was shocked when her application was denied based on the size of her home.
At 43, Harriet met her new partner and again the desire to have another child was very strong. Harriet said, “Just because I already have a daughter didn’t make the heartache of infertility any less painful, we both felt the pressure of a new relationship so it was important to both of us to have a child of our own.”
Harriet suffered 4 devastating miscarriages with no investigations as to why she couldn’t carry a child. The couple decided to try IVF and chose a clinic in Brazil, where they had two unsuccessful cycles. Feeling completely despondent the couple read excellent reviews about Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC), a JCI accredited centre of excellence for IVF. They arranged a telephone consultation Dr. Juliet Skinner,Medical Director at BFC, who suggested specialised immune blood tests that hadn’t been carried out previously, and a special ultrasound dilating the womb. Both of these revealed further problems that needed addressing. From previous miscarriages, one of which involved a Dilation & Curette (D&C) and a history of fibroids, Harriet had adhesions on her womb lining, which were preventing her from getting pregnant. Harriet underwent an operation to rectify that and a month later traveled to Barbados for IVF. She was on extra medication to prevent her from having another miscarriage too. On the exciting journey over the Atlantic to Barbados she kept wondering why these details hadn’t been looked at in her previous IVF clinic, even with all the money and time she had spent.
Thankfully, after successful diagnosis and treatment the couple achieved a positive result and now have a beautiful baby boy that they called James.
The couple have since returned to Barbados with James to show him off to the team at BFC who helped bring him in to the world.
Harriet said, “Everything worked out perfectly! This will be my first Mother’s Day with both of my children and it will be brilliant!”
Clare has divided her time between a family home in Bermuda and a home in London. She didn’t meet Mr. Right until later in life and so knew her body clock was ticking and after suffering with fibroids, knew the odds of her conceiving naturally were against her.
She got married in 2010 and immediately sought the help of her GP to help her conceive, she was told she was too old to qualify for fertility treatment on the NHS. Clare went to see a Gynecologist in Harley Street who suggested her best option for IVF was also BFC. Clare also did her research on the clinic in Barbados and had a good feeling about going back to her Caribbean roots for treatment.
The couple went to Barbados for treatment, after the initial tests Dr. Skinner was hopeful that treatment would be successful as Clare still had a good ovarian reserve. When that cycle failed Clare was devastated.
Clare said, “I so desperately wanted a family and so did my husband, it was so important to us. I was convinced with a good ovarian reserve, it was just a matter of finding that one good egg!”
But when they went back to Barbados for their second cycle, her ovarian reserve had fallen drastically and Clare was not responding well to the medication to stimulate her ovaries. That cycle was also a failure.
At this point her husband said enough is enough, no more treatment. He just wouldn’t hear of doing another round of IVF and watching Clare suffer the devastation for a third time. It had got to the stage that the couple started telling people they had made the decision not to have children, it was just easier for them than having to discuss their pain with everyone they met.
Clare said, “People mean well, but it is so painful when they continually ask, when are you having a baby?”
During her previous two treatments at BFC, it had been suggested that due to her age they would have a better chance of success if they used a donor egg, but neither Clare nor her husband were comfortable with that route and so dismissed it at the time.
But after a few more months, Clare thought again about the donor option and wondered why is was so important to her that this child had to be from one of her eggs. She felt there was a lot of stigma about using a donor egg, and so she discussed it with her husband. They decided that they wouldn’t stress over that small but crucial part of the baby making process and decided to go for it! They spoke to Dionne Holmes, the egg donor/recipient coordinator who found them a perfect match, and they returned to Barbados hoping that this was their third time lucky and it was!
Clare said, “I tried to be laid back throughout the whole process, but it was a long two-week wait to take the pregnancy test. But I felt different, I was so hungry and thirsty all the time so I hoped it was a positive sign and when I took that pregnancy test, it was indeed positive!”
Clare said, “My daughter is now 3 and I say to her everyday, thank you for being my daughter and thank you for making me a mother! Parents should be grateful for their children, not the other way around, that comes later hopefully!”
When their daughter was about 18 months, they thought they should try for a sibling and had 3 frozen embryos waiting for them in Barbados, so returned for a final cycle. They decided to have two embryos put back to maximize their chances. Also this was their last attempt as their previous attempts had been a struggle financially, so this was IT.
Again during the two-week wait, Clare felt hungry and thirsty all the time and hoped it had been a success, which it had!
At 6 weeks, Clare started bleeding and hoped that everything was OK and that this was just implantation bleeding, she booked a scan just to be sure. Clare was told that everything was fine and that she was in fact carrying two babies!
Clare said, “I only wanted our daughter to have a sibling, but God had a better plan and my twin girls, who are now 5 months old have made our lives perfect. For so many years I could only dream of being a mother, now I have 3 beautiful princesses!”
Steve & Adelia from Halifax, West Yorkshire met when they were both worked at Heathrow Airport back in 2002. Like most couples once they made the commitment to be together, they were keen to start a family, but nothing happened. They consulted their GP and were referred to their local IVF unit.
They started out with optimism, and hoped that now they were finally getting medical help, their dream of a child would soon come true. But after their first free cycle on the NHS, and subsequently paying for a further 3 cycles, their dreams were crushed.
Their IVF specialist basically said they only had a 5% chance of being successful now with all the time that had passed, and that they should just give up! Having a child is something most people look forward to all their lives and to be told just give up was a devastating blow.
The couple looked in to adoption, but after another couple of years decided to look outside the UK for IVF treatment. Steve did a lot of research of Internet and found BFC, but the couple were unsure, even though all the reviews they found online were good. As Adelia was cabin crew, one of her regular routes was to the Caribbean island of Barbados, so she went to check it out in person and was impressed with what she saw. For her next trip to Barbados, she arranged for Steve to join her and they made an appointment to have all their initial tests performed.
Dr. Skinner again requested that Adelia have specialised immune blood tests, again like Harriet, it was found that Adelia was suffering with implantation failure, but with the right treatment plan to lower Adelia’s antibodies, the couple finally found success! After 12 years of suffering the heartache of infertility, their son Dominic was born.
Dominic is now 2, and the couple have been back to Barbados for a sibling and Adelia is now 20 weeks in to her second pregnancy!
Steve said, “It seemed to us very little attempt was made in the UK to find out why IVF wasn’t working for us, whereas the research in Barbados was carried out before the treatment began. Barbados was so easy to get to and we had a holiday at the same time!”
So if you are in hiding today, I hope these stories have given you hope that despite the odds, it can happen and finally has for these three women! The important message to take from this, is that maternal age plays a big factor, as women our fertility decreases after the age of 35, so seek help sooner rather than later. If you have tried to conceive for over 12 months with no success then don’t delay in getting medical help to find out why you are not conceiving.
Join us in wishing Harriet, Clare & Adelia a truly wonderful Mothering Sunday – they deserve it!