It wasn’t until I reached the age of 40 when I finally met my husband-to-be. I had always wanted children but had never been in the right relationship when I was younger in order to have a family. I had almost given up hope that I would be one of the lucky ones.
My husband had previously had a vasectomy, and soon after we met we knew this was something that we wanted reversed in order for us to try for a family of our own. The reversal went according to plan and we spent the next few months hoping to get pregnant. When this didn’t happen, we decided to go to a private fertility clinic near us to have tests to find out what was happening. It was then that I discovered that there was very little chance that I would become pregnant, as the quality of my eggs was so low.
“I was devastated as I had always assumed I wouldn’t have a problem.”
Gavin and I decided to go to the Lister Clinic in London to give in vitro fertilization (IVF) the best shot. When in discussion with our doctor, other options were mentioned, such as traveling to Shady Grove Fertility in Washington, D.C. for their International Donor Egg Program. We immediately discounted this due to cost and decided to stick with the Lister and give it a try.
A few days later, Gavin saw that there was a fertility show in London and we decided to go. It was there that we got chatting with Amanda Segal from SGF and we heard about the Shared Donor Egg Program. We attended a seminar the following evening held by SGF and it seemed that Gavin and I came to the same conclusion at the same time. It felt right to put all our resources into the Shared Risk Program where the statistics were so much more favorable for us.
Traveling to the U.S. for treatment
We visited Washington, D.C., that December for an assessment with Michael Levy, M.D., and felt very positive moving towards the first proper round of IVF the following March. Gavin was instructed about the correct practices for injecting the medications, as that was the most daunting concern for him at that time. We left Washington with the prescribed medication and a sense of reassurance. That first visit was very worthwhile. It laid the foundation for familiarizing us with the clinic and the experience.
Back in the UK, we liaised with Lena at the Lister. She was our link back to the U.S. and was instrumental in guiding us about the timing and doses for administering the medication. Both Gavin and I grew accustomed to the procedure for drawing up the medication and injecting. Gavin’s concerns were very quickly overcome. We were also offered valuable counseling and guidance from the Lister.
The time for our embryo transfer arrived and Gavin and I traveled to the U.S. for what was to be our first round of treatment. Unfortunately, our donor eggs did not reach the desired blastocyst stage of embryo development. Even so, we went ahead and had two morula stage embryos transferred.
We returned home and liaised again with Lena and the Lister.
Making it through the two-week wait
The agonizing two-week wait sadly ended with no pregnancy. Although upset, we decided to carry on and take the next opportunity available. Another donor was chosen and we went through the whole process again the following June. This was just 6 months following our initial consultation. This time I was less hopeful and was devastated to find out that yet again our eggs had not matured past the morula stage. We had two eggs transferred and hoped for the best. We traveled home, and although we tried to stay positive following our first experience, we were—perhaps naturally—rather pessimistic about the expected outcome.
“We were so incredibly lucky”
This time, though, the tense wait resulted in a positive blood test and we were ecstatic to find that I was pregnant! There then followed a period of returning to the Lister for regular blood tests to monitor the progress and to tailor the dosing of medication. The team was great and we were updated constantly. This was extremely reassuring and kept us focused.
After 5 weeks of waiting and hoping for the best, the time came for our scan, which showed two healthy heartbeats: we were having twins!!! We couldn’t believe just how lucky we were. Thoughts turned to worries about the pregnancy, though. Would we get through the next few months safely with what was a higher-risk pregnancy? We were told at the 7-week scan that if we made it to 10 weeks then we would have a good chance, and that is what I focused on. At 24 weeks I knew the babies would be viable if born early and my excitement grew. At 34 weeks I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and gave birth by cesarean section to two little boys. Archie weighed 4 pounds and half an ounce and Freddie weighed 5 pounds and 6 and a half ounces. Both boys spent two weeks in neonatal care in order for them to feed and grow. We were SO incredibly lucky.
Working with Shady Grove Fertility
Amanda Segal was fantastic in liaising with us throughout and was incredibly sympathetic and understanding. We would also like to thank Gail, our nurse in Washington, and Lena at Lister, who were extremely supportive, knowledgeable, and reassuring.
Life with twin boys
Archie and Freddie are now 15 months old and are a complete joy. They are healthy and happy, as are we. Our lives have changed beyond recognition and I wouldn’t want it any other way. They give us a lot to laugh about and every day we feel truly blessed. We often remark on how the chance meeting with Amanda at the fertility show changed our lives forever!
Catherine’s advice for future patients
I would tell them to have faith and not give up. I have already recommended SGF to a friend who has now been accepted into the Shared Risk Program.