Emma knew when she got together with Francis that he’d had a vasectomy many years before, and at that point she wasn’t even sure she wanted children. However, as the couple reached thirty, they realized they did want a family of their own but thought a vasectomy reversal would be the first step.
Advice on fertility options
“I wouldn’t have considered going to a fertility clinic, but my GP recommended Bourn Hall,” explains Emma. “We weren’t eligible for any support from the NHS as Francis already had children, so we knew we would have to pay for treatment ourselves.”
Instead of paying to have a vasectomy reversal, which can often be unsuccessful, the couple were advised that the best option would be to have sperm removed and frozen ready for IVF treatment.
There are only a few urologists in the country that specialize in male fertility treatment and two of them, Oliver Wiseman and Nimesh Shah – both experts in Surgical Sperm Retrieval (SSR) – are based at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic.
Scheduled the SSR around work
Francis is part of an ambulance crew, so he needed to schedule the treatment around his shifts and take some leave to recover. The couple were given the choice of a few dates for treatment, and they drove up from Southend, where they live.
As Emma watched Francis go in for the operation she started to worry: “I suddenly started thinking ‘what if they don’t find any sperm, what if they are all dead?’ But Francis was really chilled and said, ‘it will be fine’.
“Bourn Hall got six vials of good quality, active sperm – so Francis came out of the clinic feeling quite pleased with himself!”
The clinic froze the sperm ready for IVF, but as the couple were taking it one step at a time, and as tests had shown nothing wrong with Emma’s fertility, she hadn’t thought much about the treatment she would need herself.
Fertility treatment happened so quickly
When Emma went to meet Francis after the operation, she got chatting to the nurse Julie who had been with them from day one.
“She was telling us about what I would need to do next and how we would be fast-tracked now they had the sperm.
“They did contact me literally a few weeks later to book us in with a consultant. I was like ‘oh my God, do I want to do this right now?’ And then I thought ‘if I don’t go for it now, I never will, because I will be thinking about it too much’ – so I said ‘alright let’s just go for it’.
Anxious – but our fertility nurse was so reassuring
“I had my appointment literally a month after Francis had his operation.
“I started my injections on the 3rd December and then had an internal scan.
“I had got myself in a bit of a state, but Julie was really nice and said that I had responded really well to the medication and the injections. I went in for egg collection a week later and they sedated me; they got seven eggs, which they were very pleased with.
“We ended up with three top quality embryos, two of which were frozen and one was put in. I was really worried about the transfer, I didn’t think I would be able to handle it, but the doctor said ‘don’t worry about it, we can knock you out’ – I was so relieved!
“Two days after embryo transfer I felt so unwell; I was dizzy, I felt sick and I thought ‘ooh I don’t feel right.’ I felt as though my period was going to come so I thought the treatment probably hadn’t worked.
The longest two weeks ever
After the embryo transfer the couple had the longest two weeks ever waiting until we could test.
Emma remembers: “The test was due on Christmas Day, but I went two days early because I thought if it was negative it would be so sad.
“I showed Francis the test and he said ‘Oh My God, no way – it has worked!’. I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I did another test the next day and then again the next day – Christmas Day … and then asked my GP for a blood test.
“We went back to Bourn Hall on the 19th January for our viability scan. I was nervous again because it was an internal but the nurse was really lovely and it was fine.
“We still couldn’t believe it and we walked around Cambridge in a bit of a daze thinking ‘it has worked first time, OMG?!’
We’ve done it, we’ve done it
“Alfie was born in August 2022, by caesarian. I felt such relief at seeing him; I had been quite anxious throughout the pregnancy and was just so glad that he had finally arrived safe and well. I thought ‘we’ve done it, we’ve done it!’”
The couple paid for the SSR on a credit card and used an Access Fertility package for the IVF treatment. “It is like going on holiday: gold package, silver package,” recalls Emma. “The cost does come into it – I can remember sitting at home like ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ But he is worth it absolutely!
“I am so grateful to my GP for pointing us in the direction of Bourn Hall. I had thought that IVF was only for people with ‘fertility issues’. We had no idea about things like surgical sperm retrieval. It was so simple – the urologists just ‘drew’ the sperm out.
“It feels strange having a child of my own, sometimes I still can’t believe he is mine – it is lovely.”