It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where my story began. I have always wanted children, perhaps this stems from being one of four myself, or the fact that I work with children, but choosing to become a parent was never in itself a difficult decision.
I had a sixth sense that I would become a parent using a donor. I had never had a serious relationship with a man, and had never really wanted one either. By my late twenties, I was in an unconventional same-sex relationship and was blissfully happy… unconventional in the fact that we lived apart (and would continue to do so) and in the big age difference between us… but, we did everything together, she was my best friend, my soulmate and my one and only true love.
Naturally, the conversation eventually began to focus on the idea of having children. I knew I wanted one; she was ambivalent about how the addition of a new little person would change the wonderful life we had built together. However, we soon both realised that this instinct that I had to become a mother wasn’t going away.
I soon became an aunty, twice over, and by the age of about 33/34 I knew that to realise this dream for myself, I would have to be proactive. At very much the same time, I had a health scare. Through a series of randomly and somewhat bizarre connections with a detached retina, I was found to have abnormally high levels of prolactin (the hormone responsible for lactation.) Without this under control, I would not ovulate, and would therefore not conceive. So began onward referrals and months of treatment to normalise my prolactin levels. It was during these rather panicky months that I began to realise that conceiving a child, even through the donor route, was not likely to be straightforward. I shared my concerns with my gynaecologist and explained the situation I was in and was advised to self-refer to a private fertility clinic. By sheer good fortune, this was within about a mile from my home, and so began my journey into the world of donor conception.
With my prolactin levels now normal, I booked myself in for the initial consultation and was soon to realise that there would be many dead-ends and pitfalls on this journey. Having proven I was of sound mind, and had really thought this through, eventually the time came to choose my donor. This was back in about 2004, just before the anonymity law changed. With my partner at my side, we listened carefully to the profiles of about four donors, trying as we might to imagine the child this donor would help create. Our wish was to find a donor with similar colouring to mine and with a good level of education thrown in. We chose our donor and off we went.
We returned on the given date and at the given time and a simple IUI procedure was carried out. “Off you go home,” I was told, “and do a pregnancy test in two weeks.” Two weeks later, two little blue lines indicated I was pregnant. How easy was that? I thought.
Fast forward twelve weeks and what seemed like a normal Sunday ahead of us, (by now, I had got over the extreme tiredness and nausea) turned out be very different indeed. Let’s just say the A&E department had a difficult job on their hands managing the colossal blood loss. Despite efforts to stem my bleeding, I miscarried and was admitted to hospital.
I recovered, eventually. My periods returned, my prolactin levels were monitored and a return visit to the clinic was made. Again we sat and listened to the profiles of the donors, (by this stage I’m pretty sure the law had changed) and chose our donor, again.
I now lose count. I had numerous failed IUI attempts and then, yes. The two little lines appeared once more. I was pregnant.
Fast forward twelve weeks (yes, my story is somewhat repetitive) and I find myself in the waiting room for my 12 week scan. We had nicknamed this little person inside me and were awaiting our introduction to this little grey grainy and blurry being.
The sonographer’s face said it all. There was no heartbeat. She was so sorry. She asked if we would like to wait in the waiting room? And then come back tomorrow for surgery? We didn’t have a choice. We were devastated. For some reason, this was so much worse. Although physically, this miscarriage was easier to deal with, the emotional effects were far, far worse. I was in pieces.
Months passed, again, I lose count. I had further IUI treatments, this time without success. And each time involved yet further decisions on donors (most of these conversations were now conducted over the phone.) Eventually, it was agreed that I should abandon the now unsuccessful IUI option and have full-blown IVF… drugs, scans, egg-collection, the lot.
So we agreed. I was now in my late thirties and in about February 2007 I had a successful round of IVF. Two embryos were implanted and the waiting game began again. Two little lines appeared and yes, for a third time, I was pregnant, this time, quite possibly with twins. But no. Six weeks later, I miscarried. Different again, but the outcome was still the same. The only light amongst this torrentially dark cloudy sky was I had three frozen embryos. I was advised to have an embryo transfer as soon as my body recovered and it did so remarkably quickly. In May 2007, one frozen embryo (we nicknamed Snowflake) survived the thaw and embedded itself into my womb. I hardly dared to move, to breath, to hope or to believe. In May, the two little lines appeared and the nagging worries continued. Could this pregnancy possibly work? Could this little Snowflake be our child?
Fast forward to January 2008, and on Wednesday January 16th, at 9.49am, our little girl was born. We named her Lucy (meaning light) and her arrival into this world heralded the start of the wondrous joy of parenting. Lucy was, and remains, an absolute delight. Now, just having turned 10, this miracle baby has somehow become a pre-teen, and early adolescence beckons… Along with her younger brother - yes, I went on to have a second child - our family is complete. The decision to have William was remarkably simple. After the endless heartache of loss and despair during the years it took to conceive Lucy, I knew I would give IVF one more chance. I was approaching 40 and undertook a fresh cycle of IVF. Using the same donor, a number of eggs were fertilised, and after an agonising choice to have one or two embryos transferred (we opted for one) I had to face the waiting game again. I knew I wanted Lucy to have a sibling, I wanted to try to normalise what was to some extent, an unusual family, and as I had been brought up in a large family, I wanted Lucy to share the love and companionship of a sibling. Well, by now, my body knew what to do. I saw those two lines for the final time in June 2009. This little embryo we nicknamed Starlight; it had reached the blastocyst stage and I quickly began the word association game… blast, rocket, space, stars… you get it... so began the months of hoping again. In February 2010, William arrived, a perfect little bundle of blue.
Life was good. We had two healthy children, good jobs and a busy and active lives. But sadly, our family of four, the family I had always dreamed of, became a family of three. My beloved partner, my best friend and my one and only true love, died in June 2015.
So here I am, a single parent, not by choice, but by the hand of cards I was dealt. I am enormously grateful for what I have… but admittedly, the stress and sadness of a bereavement has at times clouded our days. Life is not always particularly easy but I remain indebted to a stranger, a man I have never met and may never meet, a man who gave me the greatest gifts of all.
This story was written by Jane in 2018.