“We didn’t sit down and say ‘shall we have children?’, it just came up; we had had some fun holidays and time to do what we wanted just with us two – and then came the next step in the relationship.” Emily and her wife Gemma always knew they would need the support of a fertility clinic to have a family, and they are now two mummies to Ruby, 5, through IUI, and baby Rafferty through IVF.
Emily tells their fertility story.
Initially Gemma was more broody than me but both of us have always wanted children. We did a bit of research and looked through the Stonewall guidance and how we might do it. We weren’t married at that time and it was really important that we were both legal parents.
We felt that it was really important to get it right at the very beginning, and that helped us to confirm that it was a clinic route that we wanted to go down. Bourn Hall came up in our searches, so we booked a consultation and then went from there.
It was about seven years ago when we first made contact and discussed what route would be the best way, whether it would be IUI or IVF.
We felt comfortable at Bourn Hall
It all came naturally – the relationship we formed with Bourn Hall was really easy. We felt comfortable that we were making the right decision, and guidance was really good.
Fertility treatment includes so much more than just the medical care – you’ve got the support from the professionals and the counselling as well. It was the counsellor that helped us to talk to Ruby about how she was conceived; it is important to get that right because when they go to school, they will know that they haven’t got a dad and they need to cope with that.
Who should carry?
Gemma was always keener to carry than I was, so she carried Ruby and then I carried Rafferty.
We chose a donor with characteristics that we both had, such as dark hair. The whole process was fascinating and we really appreciated the notes that the donor had made. These can really make a difference – they give a background and sense of identity, and it helped us to know the reasons and the morals behind the decision to donate. We will share those notes with the children when they are old enough.
Gemma had IUI and it worked first time; we were very fortunate. I was with her when she had the procedure, so I could see it happening on the screen. When we got the positive result I couldn’t believe it, we were pacing up and down saying ‘have we done this right?’.
I would recommend that with IUI you budget for another try if you can – if it doesn’t work first time you can then keep the momentum and the cycles going.
A good thing with Bourn Hall is that it was very clear from the very beginning what the costs would be, so there weren’t any hidden extras.
It was amazing when Ruby was born. We feel very fortunate that the IUI worked first time and were overjoyed at welcoming her into our family. We’ve got a very close family network and she was my parents’ first grandchild so she is very special for those reasons as well.
We got married in 2018, when Ruby was two – she was a little flower girl.
We did think long and hard before trying again though – Ruby was saying if her friends at school had brothers and sisters, why couldn’t she?
Gemma couldn’t have any more goes herself after Ruby as she had pre-eclampsia and has high blood pressure. She was advised that it wasn’t the greatest idea to go through treatment and pregnancy again. Fortunately, because we are two females, we could switch over. Once we had Ruby and I became a parent, I thought I would quite like to carry anyway, so that became the next natural thing.
Ruby actually joined us for the video consultation. We had talked about the clinic before and to have her on that journey was really nice. She knew that it might work or it might not. She has got such a bond and relationship with Rafferty, and she really knows what we went through to try to conceive him.
I had a few tries with IUI – probably about four attempts over a couple of years with gaps in-between. When we look back, we were probably feeling more drained and disappointed than we realised. We were beginning to think: ‘we are really fortunate, let’s really enjoy Ruby; we gave it a good go, and perhaps it is not meant to be’.
IVF was the next step
We left it at that, really – and then lockdown came and it made us reassess. We said ‘right, come on – let’s give it one more push’.
We moved on to IVF, and fortunately I fell pregnant with my first IVF cycle.
We had a package with Access Fertility and we paid for three attempts, but fortunately we were lucky first time. By having the option of three goes I think we may have relaxed a bit more – it wasn’t so much pressure on just one try.
Although I felt really tired with the drugs from the IVF compared to the IUI, I was quite confident doing it because I had done the IUI. The thing that I was most worried about was egg collection: I was having appointments on my own because of Covid restrictions and that was quite daunting.
When it came to egg collection, I had between seven and nine eggs, of which five fertilized.
Making decisions together
On the day of the transfer, I had one in excellent condition and one with really good quality and they were both at blastocyst stage, so they went the full five days. It was ICSI IVF that I had and then we had the option of transferring one or two embryos. That was a big decision.
I needed to speak to Gemma about it, so that I knew I was making the right decisions and I wasn’t getting excited and thinking we could get two babies. I had to have a calculated discussion and thought about it, so I had to call from the clinic to Gemma in the car park. We decided to transfer one and freeze the other; we definitely made the right decision and even though I was on my own, the support at the clinic was amazing.
We started to believe I was pregnant after the second positive test and when the early scan showed everything was in the right place. We could then think ‘this is now happening and we are expecting another!’.
Dr Papathanasiou did both of our transfers for our positive pregnancies, and when I saw him for the IVF I was so pleased. It is nice to say to the children that the treatment was carried out by the same doctor, which is really lovely.
Rafferty was born in October 2021.
Two mummies, two babies, one IVF, one IUI
We had one child with IUI and another with IVF – they are definitely real miracle children, who we absolutely adore.
I have a smile on my face when I talk about them; it is sometimes hard to put into words around how lucky we are. So many people struggle to have a family and having children is such a wonderful thing. I think that one of the lovely things is seeing our parents with our children and the joy that our children bring to others
We haven’t decided what to do about the frozen embryo; it is a temptation but at the moment we are staying with the two.
Gemma concludes: “Bourn Hall was very welcoming and informative, and enabled us to be the family I have always wished for. Thanks to Bourn Hall we have our two miracles to adore and watch grow.”
Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, Medical Director, Bourn Hall
Women who choose to go to a regulated clinic rather than ‘do it themselves’ might assume they will automatically be treated using IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) – a form of assisted conception treatment where prepared sperm is injected high into the womb at the time of ovulation. It uses the body’s natural cycle, is less invasive than IVF and less expensive.
Whilst many of Bourn Hall’s same-sex couples are treated using IUI, sometimes it is more appropriate for them to have IVF. This is where the ovaries are stimulated to produce more eggs at the same time; these are collected and mixed with the sperm in the laboratory. Although IVF requires more medication there are many benefits. The menstrual cycle is controlled so that the chances of success are increased and it overcomes fertility issues such as blocked fallopian tubes and reduced egg production. Additionally, the first cycle often produces embryos that are suitable for freezing for further attempts if the initial treatment is unsuccessful.
For some couples IVF also offers more options, for example if you want ‘shared motherhood’ where one partner produces the eggs and the other carries the pregnancy.
Patient choice is important to us, so do take the opportunity to talk through all the options before making a decision.