How IVF has changed our lives

Five little Elizabeths were among the Bourn Hall babies who have helped the Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Mrs Julie Spence, to create ‘Elizabeth’s Wood’ as part of The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative.  IVF has changed our lives and their parents talk about what fertility treatment has meant to them.

Ahead of Fertility Awareness Week, seven lime trees have been planted at Bourn Hall Cambridge, one for each decade of The Queen’s reign, and each dedicated to a milestone in IVF – one of the greatest scientific and medical achievements made during The Queen’s reign.

The date marks the start of Fertility Week and the families are sharing their stories to help others.

Five little Elizabeths plant a wood at Bourn Hall Clinic to commemorate the Queen with the Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Mrs Julie Spence – (children L-R): Lizzie Hasketh-Boston, Effie Haggis-Powell, Lyla Elizabeth Halls, Beth Mitchell, Elle Elizabeth O’Malley

Elizabeth (Beth), from Southend, was born following NHS-funded IVF treatment at Bourn Hall; she is named after her great-grandmothers and is a big fan of the Royal family.

Her mum Jo says: “We felt so lucky when we got to Bourn Hall and they took us seriously. I was in my early thirties at this point and some of my friends already had several children. I can’t believe that I survived that time.

“If it hadn’t been for IVF, we wouldn’t be parents. We were happy before as a couple but having a baby makes you a family.”

Lyla helped to plant the tree commemorating Patrick Steptoe establishing the British Fertility Society and using a laparoscope for fertility diagnosis for the first time, both in 1972.

Lyla Elizabeth, from Norfolk, was born following Ovulation Induction at Bourn Hall, she was named after her grandmother and great grandmother who were both called Elizabeth and she celebrated her first birthday on the 2nd June, the anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and her Platinum Jubilee. She was born in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after fertility treatment at Bourn Hall.

Her mum Tasha says: “The treatment at Bourn Hall has meant the world to us; Lyla is our little princess.”

Lyla plants a tree

Adaline and Max helped to plant the tree commemorating the birth of the world’s first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978.

Adaline welcomes Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence

Max and Adaline, from Cambourne, were born following IVF treatment at Bourn Hall. Their parents Luke and Hannah were both super-fit so they were surprised when it was revealed that both had fertility issues.

Luke remembers: “It was very hard to deal with as it was just something which had never crossed my mind,” he says. “I remember feeling helpless and not knowing what I could do to change things.”
IVF has meant everything to them, Luke says: “We’ve been able to have a family. Max and Adaline wouldn’t be here without IVF and that’s an impossible thing to imagine.”

Lizzie helped to plant the tree commemorating the birth of the world’s first frozen embryo twins in 1987.

Lizzie helps plant a tree

Elizabeth (Lizzie) from Norfolk, was born after IVF treatment at Bourn Hall, just a few days before her mum’s 40th birthday. The couple, Jessica and husband Marc had been trying to have a baby for 10 years and Lizzie was named after Jessica’s mum who passed away suddenly.

“I really did feel as though my body clock was ticking,” says Jessica, who has PCOS, a common cause of fertility issues in women. “I had begun to think that perhaps being a mum just wasn’t going to happen for me. Over the years I used to have dreams sometimes that I had a baby and would wake up and it wasn’t true. After Lizzie was born it took me a while to realise that I wasn’t still dreaming.”

Effie helped to plant the tree commemorating the first Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which was passed in 1990.

Elizabeth (Effie) from Royston, Herts was born following IVF treatment at Bourn Hall. Effie is the Scottish form of Elizabeth and both her nans shared the name. Her parents Megan and Mike tried for five years to have a baby.

Megan says: “I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that IVF has absolutely changed my life. I am incredibly grateful to Bourn Hall.”

Effie with her flag

Elle helped to plant the tree commemorating Bourn Hall’s first baby conceived through ICSI being born in 1995.

Mike Macnamee, Adam Burnley and Julie Spence with the O'Malleys

Elle Elizabeth, from Chelmsford, was born following NHS-funded IVF treatment at Bourn Hall. Her parents Laura and Matt were completely stunned when they were given a diagnosis of male infertility.

Matt remembers that moment Elle was born: “Relief, complete love … breath-taking. It was the best feeling in the world. It felt like those years of emotional and physical turmoil had all been worth it. I wouldn’t change anything for the world, because we’ve got an angel.”

Esmé helped to plant the tree commemorating egg freezing and the first egg-sharing programme, which was set up in 2002 by Bourn Hall.

Esmé, from Ipswich, was born following IVF treatment at Bourn Hall. Her mum Sarah worked as a nursery manager surrounded by children. She hit 30 during lockdown and realised with a shock that if she wanted to fulfil her dream of being a mum, she would need to go it alone.

“To be honest I was more scared about what other people would think. I spoke to a few close friends and was shocked, they were really supportive and said ‘you can do that! It is absolutely fine!’
After unsuccessful IUI she became an egg sharer and had IVF with donated sperm, it has changed her life.

“For the sperm donor the words ‘thank you’ will never be enough. People who donate have no idea how much they change people’s lives and make their dreams come true. Even though I have never met him, he has helped to give me a beautiful baby girl and for that he will forever be my hero.”

Kay Elder with Esme and Sarah

Related articles