Bourn Hall brings Santa back to Wickford for some early Christmas magic

Meeting Father Christmas is a magical experience for children, but also their parents, as two Essex mums discovered this weekend at the Wickford at Christmas Street Fair. Both women had previously struggled with infertility so this special moment with their children was a dream come true.

Shanna from Basildon and Leonie from South Ockendon both conceived babies after successful IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Wickford. The clinic is once again sharing the joy by sponsoring the Father Christmas grotto at the Wickford at Christmas Street Fair – which it has been doing since 2017.

‘Heartwarming,’ is how Shanna describes the experience. She always knew her chances of having a baby were slim, as she had cancer as a baby and the treatment can damage your eggs and she was later told her fallopian tubes were blocked by endometriosis. Fortunately, her eggs had survived and she now has two IVF children, Henry (8) and Arabella (3).

Little miracles

Bourn Hall Fertility Nurse Specialist Angela Leach joined the families on Sunday with her colleague Katie Rees, also a fertility nurse specialist at Bourn Hall.

Katie Rees and Angela Leach with Linda Harrison from Wickford at Christmas
Bourn Hall Fertility Nurse Specialists Katie Rees (L) and Angela Leach (R) with Linda Harrison from Wickford at Christmas (centre)

Angela says: “Christmas is all about families and at Bourn Hall we understand that this time of year can be particularly difficult for those who want a baby more than anything in the world.

“But Christmas is also a time of hope and every year Bourn Hall helps hundreds of couples to achieve a little miracle, we look forward to seeing many more ‘Bourn Hall Babies’ excited to see Santa in the years to come.”

First baby conceived at new Wickford clinic

Bear, aged two and a half, was the first baby to be born following treatment at Bourn Hall’s new state-of-the-art clinic, which opened in Wickford in 2018. His mum Leonie met husband Chris at 19 and had always wanted children, but was concerned that an operation on her ovaries as a teenager may have affected her chances.

Bear was conceived after NHS-funded treatment and Leonie clearly remembers when she got a positive pregnancy test for the first time. “I was so excited that I drove to Tesco in my pyjamas to buy more pregnancy tests just to double-check it was true!”

“Taking Bear to see Father Christmas was lovely and it was so nice to share the experience with another Bourn Hall mum too. I think we were just as excited, if not more, than our children!”

Shanna agrees: “Taking Arabella to meet Father Christmas and to see my fertility nurse Angela again has been a lovely experience for us both and we will always remember it.”

Making up for lost time

The Wickford at Christmas Fair was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, which also affected fertility treatment. Bourn Hall had to close for a few months during the first national lockdown in March 2020 but was one of the first to meet the HFEA requirements to reopen and did so by transforming the way it works. The Wickford clinic has introduced remote working and virtual consultations, strengthened its team and links with GP practices, to provide a responsive service to patients and help them make up for lost time.

Shanna with Arabella; Bourn Hall’s Angela Leach; Leonie with Bear
Shanna with Arabella; Bourn Hall Fertility Nurse Specialist Angela Leach; Leonie with Bear

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