It is hard and challenging, but nothing compares to what you have in your arms at the end.
In 2018, we started considering having a family of our own. We’re both very family oriented but spent a lot of time building careers and focusing on just us, but we then decided we really wanted to focus on building a family. At that time I was 28, so relatively quite young and because of that we decided that I would carry the baby. Since I considered myself healthy, we decided to go down the insemination route as many lesbian couples do. We first went to a clinic in Spain due to the cost which ended up backfiring on us, because we did four rounds of IUI that weren’t successful. So, at the end of the day, the cost was relatively the same anyways. Since leaving that clinic we were quite reflective and overall it wasn’t a great clinic, we don’t have any positive things to say about it.
Then COVID hit and we wouldn’t be able to travel for treatment. We also spent a lot of time researching ‘how to be successful in fertility treatment’ and one of the major things was to reduce stress. Travelling back and forth to Spain for treatment and trying to fit it into our schedules, was definitely stressing me out so we started to look more locally.
Of course, we wanted to consider the NHS because that would remove any financial fears, but at that time the criteria weren’t super supportive of LGBTQ couples. We did an initial consultation with the NHS and were told we need to try for two years of unprotected sex and then we would need to prove we tried six rounds of IUI before we would even be considered for IVF. We did argue this was highly discriminatory to LGBT couples because it doesn’t matter healthy we are or how many times we try we wouldn’t be able to produce a baby. That’s just a fact.
We then looked at private clinics and focused on looking at reviews and testimonials. We originally picked abc ivf, and did an initial consultation with them during the consultation, we discovered I had a low ovarian reserve, which nobody ever spotted before, not at the Spanish clinic or at the NHS consultation. With this news, we cried a lot, but the consultant was really nice and supportive and recommended us to CREATE Fertility where someone with my level of the ovarian reserve could be supported.
Once we were with CREATE we had a whole host of new experiences, all our appointments were on time- whereas at the previous clinic, we had been waiting hours and hours, and in fertility treatment time is everything. When we were at the Spanish clinic they chose the donor for us, they looked at me and my partner and decided for us. For us we wanted Scandinavia and Latin American heritage to represent our ethnicities but they didn’t allow that. When we came to CREATE they got us in contact with external sperm banks that could match our criteria and gave us specific advice to make the process as easy as possible.
We had the Mild IVF protocol, and I continued working through treatment. The clinic was very accommodating with the ultrasound timings and there were a lot of consent forms to do but it was perfect and very clear. When it comes to medication, we both work in health care so Teresa was helping me. I also changed my entire diet about 6 months before starting treatment, cutting out caffeine, alcohol and really focusing on sleep and adding a lot of green vegetables and fruit to my diet. I also tracked my water intake as hydration is believed to be a very important factor in general health and also for fertility. We did decide to change our lives to maximise our chances because I don’t know if we could afford to have another round.
We started our first round and through the monitoring scans, it was spotted that the follicles were growing a bit too quickly. So, the clinic did recommend we cancel the cycle and start again the next month with modified medication, however, they said it was 100% our decision if we still wanted to go ahead. It was really devastating to hear, but we decided to listen to the consultant and cancel the cycle. We’re so happy we did that because in the following month when we started again, we saw that everything was going to plan, and we had a fresh transfer two days after the eggs were collected.
The team were very lovely, the receptionist especially was very kind and had the ability to read how patients were feeling and make sure they were supported in any way they needed. When I would come in we would be able to have a joke, but on days when I was low, they were very kind and supportive. All consultants were really informative and answered any questions we had, they also allowed me to record some of our meetings so I could share them with Teresa.
Five days post egg transfer we were doing some DIY around the house and I felt a pinch in my lower tummy and I had to sit down, and Teresa said maybe I was lifting something that was a bit too heavy for me, which I doubted was the case. Then on day 8, I said I wanted to do the test, Teresa was half asleep and I was going around in circles saying yes than no. We’ve had false positives before, and I wasn’t sure if I could go through that again. Before I did the test we spent time talking about the what-ifs, what would we do if it was negative? How are we going to handle that? And Teresa just said, ‘No it’s there, I felt it, it’s there’ so I went to the toilet and did the test and within 30 seconds it turned positive! I kept saying it can’t be right! That night we slept with the pregnancy test in between us. Two days later we went and did our blood test at the clinic and that evening they called us to tell us it was a very clear positive! We were over the moon, it was a magical moment. It’s hard to describe when something like that happens.
I stayed quite regimented through my pregnancy and kept up my exercise and diet, but our son decided to join the world 2 months early at week 31, which was actually the day of his baby shower! From the first contraction to him being out it was a total of three hours, which is very uncommon for a first child. We had four paediatricians in the room because they said due to him coming so early, he won’t be able to cry or breathe on his own because he was not ready, but he came out and started wailing! 4 weeks later they discharged us with the baby because he was ready, was eating and was perfectly healthy. We don’t know why he came so early, he was just ready to be here.
Our major advice for those who are starting treatment would be to make sure to focus on having a healthy lifestyle. I believe it plays a huge role because you want to create an optimal environment for the follicles and a baby to grow in. It is hard and challenging, but nothing compares to what you have in your arms at the end.