Chloe from Essex had always wanted to be a mum so it came as a complete shock to be given the news aged 16 that she had a rare medical condition – which meant that, she had no womb and would need surrogacy to have her own biological child.
“I realised something was wrong when at 15 I was literally the only one of my friends who hadn’t started their periods,” says Chloe, speaking ahead of National Surrogacy Week which runs from 1-7 August.
“My mum had sat me down as she had with my sisters to have the ‘chat’ about how my body would start to change and so I had been waiting for the day to come like it had for everyone else, but it didn’t.”
Chloe was subsequently diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH) and told she had no womb, which meant that the only way that she would be able to have her own biological child would be with IVF – and the help of a surrogate to carry her baby.
Would need a specialist in trans-abdominal egg collection
When she was 20 Chloe married Christopher and the couple asked for contributions to their ‘baby fund’ instead of wedding presents. They then approached Bourn Hall Clinic in Wickford.
“We had the IVF bit done first,” explains Chloe. “The doctors at Bourn Hall told me that my ovaries ‘float around’ as they are not anchored in place by the womb so I would need trans-abdominal egg collection instead of the standard procedure.”
Bourn Hall Clinic has an expert in trans-abdominal egg collection, Dr Chhaya Prasannan-Nair.
“Dr Prasannan-Nair collected eight of my eggs, which I was really pleased about,” says Chloe, “and four fertilised and were frozen. Once we had found our surrogate, she would then have a Frozen Embryo Transfer at Bourn Hall with one of our embryos, and there would be no genetic link to her.
Joined Surrogacy UK
“We joined Surrogacy UK in August 2020 and became part of their online members website where you can message people. After nearly eight months we met Sophie and spent three months getting to know each other before we became a ‘team’ in August 2021.”
Now she had her surrogate Chloe got back in touch with Bourn Hall and by early November Sophie had started her medication for the Frozen Embryo Transfer. “She had to inject herself, take medication, insert pessaries; she did all of that for us and it wasn’t easy,” says Chloe.
Together at embryo transfer and the birth
The Frozen Embryo Transfer took place at Bourn Hall on 6 January 2022.
“I was able to be in the room with Sophie and held her hand as we watched it on the screen,” explains Chloe. “It happened very fast – you don’t really see that much, but we got an ultrasound photograph of the moment of transfer so I could show Chris. Afterwards we went out and took a selfie to capture the moment.”
On 15 January 2022 Chloe and Chris found out that Sophie was pregnant with their child – the IVF had worked first time.
“Sophie was amazing throughout the pregnancy; ultimately she became our friend and it was a really lovely experience,” says Chloe. “We went to the seven-week viability scan at Bourn Hall and both Chris and I were allowed to be in the room with Sophie which was really special, to be there together. It was amazing because at seven weeks you see something flicker on the screen which is the baby’s heartbeat.”
Matthew was born in September 2022.
“When Matthew was born I was allowed to cut the cord and I had my first skin-to-skin with him; it was really lovely,” says Chloe. “Chris then came to meet him and we were very, very happy – it was just such a surreal moment.
Egg retrieval meant Matthew is couple’s biological child
“We wouldn’t have been able to have Matthew without Bourn Hall. I know other women who have MRKH and unfortunately due to where their ovaries are and also partly where they live there aren’t the specialists that can do the trans-abdominal egg retrieval and it was just amazing that Bourn Hall had someone.”
Dr Chhaya Prasannan-Nair, Consultant Gynaecologist and IVF Specialist at Bourn Hall Clinic, commented:
“The trans-abdominal method of egg retrieval was integral to Chloe being able to use her own eggs in the IVF process and I am so delighted that the embryo transfer involving her surrogate worked first time. Her story is a wonderful example of how reproductive medicine and science can overcome what can seem like the biggest of obstacles. “
Most incredible feeling
Surrogate Sophie from Harlow, herself a mum-of-three, says that carrying Chloe and Chris’s baby has been ‘absolutely life-changing’ for her:
“I can’t quite capture it in words, but being able to bring a child into this world is the most incredible feeling,” she says. “I could see what a fantastic mum Chloe would be and boy is she smashing it! To watch her cut Matthew’s cord and call his name when they handed him to her was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”