Amanda and Jason were childhood sweethearts, they got married in their twenties and starting trying for a baby six years later. After trying to conceive for two years they were referred for fertility tests. It was during this time that Amanda had devastating news: she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.
Amanda, who had not had any symptoms, explains: “It was a total shock, I wasn’t ill and felt fine. Luckily the cancer was grade 1a, meaning it hadn’t spread and was completely contained in the womb. The fertility testing had caught it at a very early stage but as a hysterectomy was part of the treatment, it meant I’d never be able to carry a baby.”
It was her surgical oncologist that suggested the possibility of using a surrogate for IVF treatment. As the cancer hadn’t spread and chemotherapy was not required, Amanda’s ovaries were not removed during the hysterectomy. However, as the cancer had been oestrogen dependent (one of the hormones the ovaries produce) the ovaries had to be removed after a year as delaying any longer increased the risk of the cancer returning, leaving the couple just a small window of opportunity to make a decision.
The couple decided they did want their own child and were given an emergency appointment at Bourn Hall Clinic. “The staff at Bourn Hall were incredibly kind,” says Amanda. “They explained that as my womb had been removed I had to be anaesthetised for every egg collection. After the collection the eggs were fertilised by Jason’s sperm and then frozen. The clinic told us that freezing embryos (the egg and the sperm combined) gave a better chance of a successful pregnancy than eggs alone, and after three rounds of treatment, 14 embryos were frozen.”
“After all we’d been through we couldn’t believe it was finally happening.”
Finding the right surrogate
Bourn Hall had helped Amanda and Jason hold on to their dream of having a child that was genetically theirs. They now needed to find a surrogate who was willing to carry their baby. For legal reasons this had to be independent of the clinic.
They joined Surrogacy UK, an organisation that believes in surrogacy through friendship, and it was here they met Annie. “We were friends with Annie for over a year before she offered to be our surrogate. Trust and a good relationship were the main factors we needed to embark on this journey and we definitely felt this with Annie,” explains Amanda.
Annie had always wanted to experience pregnancy but without the ‘consequences’. “I’m a little bit unusual as I never wanted my own children,” says Annie. “The idea of being a surrogate started off as a bit of a joke, but a few years ago I started researching into the possibility.
“I met Amanda and Jason at one of the Surrogacy UK socials and we naturally formed a friendship. At the time I was pregnant and on my first journey with another couple. Six months after the birth, I wanted to help another family and Amanda and Jason were the obvious choice.”
Own child after cancer
In January 2014 the frozen embryos were moved to a clinic nearer to Annie for treatment and she got pregnant on the first try. “It didn’t seem real,” says Amanda. “After all we’d been through we couldn’t believe it was finally happening; we didn’t buy anything for the baby until after the 20 week scan. We saw Annie every two to three weeks, went to every midwife appointment and got to feel our baby kick.”
“When Effie was born Jason cut the cord and we had our first cuddle. We feel incredibly lucky. She is such a good baby, even sleeping through the night!”
Annie thinks this is the best thing she’s ever done: “To make people’s dreams come true is such a privilege and being able to see the children grow up, knowing I helped, is incredibly rewarding.”
Amanda and Jason are extremely grateful for the gift Annie gave them. “Annie is the most amazing woman and has changed our lives. We still regularly meet up, both at the Surrogacy UK socials and as friends. She is definitely part of our family.”