An Egg Sharer’s Story – By Emma Miller-McCaffrey
After a year and a half of trying the more risky option of trying to find a known donor willing to perform home insemination and being disappointed on several occasions I decided emotionally I could no longer have my dream of starting a family left in the hands of someone else’s decision making – it was now time for me to take control and make it happen!
With a little research and a look on the parenting section of Stonewall’s website I decided to look up London Women’s Clinic! I was really quite excited to see that they had a clinic not more than 20 minutes from us in Darlington and I spoke to my Civil Partner about the possibility of contacting them for more information! As it happened they were having an open day not far from the date of initial contact so I booked us in and we spent one Saturday in March 2012 visiting the clinic.
I couldn’t believe how welcoming it was but, more importantly, how friendly everyone was! We met several of the Nursing staff and the very friendly and chatty Business Co-ordinator Sarah who was to be a big support in the whole process! It was on this day that we were introduced to our Doctor. He took us, two very nervous women, into his office to discuss treatment options! He talked about the costs and process of IUI and IVF and also mentioned that we could be accepted to try for the Egg Sharing Programme due to my BMI and health being acceptable. At hearing this I had already decided in my mind that this was the option for me! We left the clinic with lots to think about but it didn’t take long for me to talk with my partner and for us to agree that this was going to be the best option for us and that I was happy to Egg Share.
As a Lesbian couple we knew that there was no way we could get pregnant without the need for Donor sperm and because of that I felt it only right that we in turn could help someone else who was as desperate as we were to fulfil our dream just with a little help!
It took us less than 2 weeks to make our decision, book an appointment and have my first blood tests done! From here the waiting game began! Blood tests and internal scans were needed to check my fertility, check my ovaries and check for any genetic problems! Luckily for us all came back clear and we were ready to progress to the next step – the injections! Now knowing that my partner was very squeamish I knew this would be something that I was going to have to do alone! With a bit of tuition from the nursing staff I began to inject, alternate sides of my stomach, at the same time each night. The most memorable of these being in a toilet of a London restaurant as I was attending the Stonewall Education Conference at the time! LOL! It felt like this time flew by and before we knew it I was booked in for my 3 internal scans leading up to what we were here for – the Egg retrieval and Embryo transfer dates! At the last scan date the nurses, having been very reassuring, informed me I would need another date adding as my ovaries hadn’t quite reached the size required for the go ahead. After a nervous weekend and trying to put as much positivity as I could into each of the extra injections I had to do we returned on the Monday to find they had grown substantially and we were now all set – Wednesday, just 2 days to go, and we would be going for Egg retrieval! Monday night I took the last injection and then just could do nothing but hope that all would be well on our return.
Having, if I’m honest, not slept very well in the lead up to now I certainly didn’t sleep this night and woke up in the early hours as nervous as anything! My partner on the other hand was doing her best to be the cool, calm, collected one and had to be forced out of bed! We got to the clinic a few minutes late and dashed in full of apology. We were greeted by Sarah who asked how I was feeling! I told her I had never felt so nervous and she did her best to calm me! All I could think about was the sedation as I had never been sedated before and the amount of eggs that would be found!
I went through to my cubicle where I was given a gown to change into and a tray with 3 pessarie’s that I was asked to insert. That bit I did not enjoy one bit but needs must! As I then sat waiting to be called to the treatment room my partner looked across at me and in that moment I knew that although I was physically going in on my own she would be with me in spirit every step of the way. This was what I had waited for. I was called across by the nursing staff and after a few checks to make sure they had the right person on the table they lay me on the bed and started to wire me up and began the sedation. It was now that the Doctor came in and calmly talked me through what he was about to do. A bit of pushing and pulling and before I knew it we were all done.
I returned to the cubicle to sit and wait for the result, which unbeknown to me and my partner, had already been found out. After a few unsure messages I finally was told that I had only produced 8 eggs. At that moment my heart sank as I thought this would mean the end of the road for us. The Doctor then came and gave me 3 options: 1. Give all 8 eggs to my recipient and go through the process again at a later stage for myself. 2. Keep all 8 eggs for myself and give nothing to the recipient meaning she would have to start her journey again. Or 3. Share 4 eggs with the recipient and have 4 for myself. He then left me and my partner in our cubicle to discuss our options! Option 1 for me was not an option and so left us with 2 choices – keep them all or continue to share. It felt like an age but in reality it didn’t take too long to decide what to do. I was not going to be the person who put a stop to someone else’s dreams and knew I would never live with myself if I took that option so we asked for the Doctor to come back as we had made our decision. I informed him that I was still happy to share and that if the recipient was happy with that then we should continue as planned! Within less than 5 minutes the recipient had accepted my offer and we were back on track.
It was now that all we could do was wait for the phone to ring. I’m the kind of person who always has her phone by her side but this time I made extra sure I knew where it was at all times! Within an hour of leaving the clinic the phone went. LWC displayed on my phone and I answered like a bag of nerves! It was Karen, the Embryologist, informing me that she had looked at the donor sperm and from first glance it looked good. She informed me she would be inseminating my 4 eggs and would ring the next day to let me know how it had gone. After the longest 24hours so far Karen rang early the next morning to let me know that 3 of the 4 eggs had successfully fertilised and to book us in for Embryo Transfer on the Monday at 9am! She told me as she was finishing the call that I now wouldn’t hear from the clinic unless there was a change in status over the next few days. Every time my phone rang my heart skipped a beat but, luckily for us, it was never the clinic and Monday came pretty quickly. 5 days from retrieval I had 1 blastocyst that was a day behind in growth and 2 that were doing well. Of these 2 the stronger was selected for transfer. At this point my partner was given some attractive blue slips for her shoes as she could come and join me in the treatment room this time! We both entered, nerves everywhere and me focusing on not weeing myself as the scan for transfer is an external one and I had not been allowed to go to the toilet prior! I looked at my partner and my partner looked at the screen as Karen brought the Doctor the tube with the egg in. After a matter of a couple of minutes the transfer was done and, as in the words of the Doctor, it was then left to the hands of nature! The following day Karen rang to let us know she was able to freeze 2 Embryo’s for future use.
We are now 1 week in to the dreaded 2 week wait and I can promise you it is feeling like the longest wait of our lives! With our 3 year wedding anniversary coming up next week I just hope we have the best gift anyone could hope for – our dream becoming a reality!
Sadly things didn’t go to plan from here. I took the test and it read positive – we were pregnant! But as quickly as I read the word positive I began to bleed. We rushed to the clinic for a blood test to see what was happening and left. Within an hour the Doctor rang with the news that still breaks my heart when I think back – I was having a miscarriage.
Now in 2017 we have tried two more times, both unsuccessful. Money has run dry, jobs have been lost, the relationship has even come to an end. I moved back to my spiritual home of Liverpool and have married the love of my life and we have moved to RMA Sandhurst, but my hopes and dreams are still there.
We have been through one round of full IVF since moving south at the London Women’s Clinic @ The Bridge Centre. Sadly this resulted in a negative outcome but we paid for a 3 cycle package and round 2 is just around the corner!
The reason I tell you all of this is because I want you to never give up on your hopes and dreams. I haven’t. And one day I will walk hand in hand with a child who calls me mummy. X