I found myself single, in my thirties – and my eggs were running out

After her marriage broke down and discovering she had a low ovarian reserve , Claire was considering solo IVF with donor sperm – but then she met and fell in love with James and they agreed they would like to have a baby together. The only problem was that James had already undergone a vasectomy…  

My eggs were running out

“I parted from my ex-husband in 2011. We had been together a long time, since our teens, and had never tried to have children, it had just never been on the agenda for us. I am very career orientated and had buried myself in my work. But then I suddenly found myself heading towards 30 and single and my body clock was ticking….

“I booked myself an appointment at Bourn Hall Norwich for an AMH test, basically to get an idea of what my egg count was. That was five years ago and my ovarian reserve was actually quite low so I knew that time wasn’t on my side fertility-wise.

“I started having a discussion with Bourn Hall about having solo IVF treatment using donor sperm. I had a good conversation with the consultant and we spoke about what donor treatment would look like, the IVF and egg collection and how you select the sperm donor and all the legalities around that.

“I was seriously considering it….then I met James!

I told him I wanted to be a mum on our first date!

“James is nine years older than me and already had grown-up children – his daughter Alex, who I knew through work, had played matchmaker and introduced us. I thought that me being so upfront about wanting children might put him off, especially as he had had a vasectomy, but he was receptive.

I told him I wanted to be a mum on our first date!  

“It is a running joke that on our first date I said to him ‘I want to be a mum’ and my friends said ‘you can’t say that on a first date!’ I said ‘well actually I can because I know what I want’.

“So after I told him I said to him ‘I will leave that with you then….on the basis of whether you want to see me again’.  Thankfully he did want to see me again and eight months after we got together he had a vasectomy reversal!

“The vasectomy reversal at a private hospital in Norwich was initially a success and we were told to start trying naturally for a baby. Nothing was happening and a couple of subsequent semen tests revealed that there was no sperm.

“The consultant at the hospital said that the tubes had probably blocked up again, perhaps with scar tissue, and that he could attempt the reversal again but suggested that we might be better off going to Bourn Hall to see what our options were.

Sperm retrieval was a success

“I found myself back at Bourn Hall Norwich, but with a partner this time, and the recommendation was for James to have a sperm retrieval operation at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic. We now wish, with the benefit of hindsight, that we had gone straight to surgical sperm retrieval rather than attempting the vasectomy reversal, both from a cost point of view and also because the experience was initially quite traumatic for James.

“James’ surgical sperm retrieval operation was in December 2020 and was successful. They managed to get five vials of sperm, which were then frozen, so that was kind of James done with really and then they started with me in the January 2021.

“We had had to pay for our IVF, James was already a Dad  so we were not entitled to NHS treatment.

“I am not going to lie, IVF is probably the hardest thing I have ever been through. Injecting the drugs was quite hard, as was how the drugs made me feel. It was an emotional rollercoaster of wanting a baby so much and a massive drain on our relationship.

“Our first round of IVF failed, I had quite a nasty bleed which felt different to a period, more like a miscarriage, and when I did the ten-day pregnancy test it was negative. I was really upset and quite despondent actually. I also felt anxious because I knew that time was probably not on our side and there was the financial pressure too.

We kept our treatment under wraps 

“I was desperate to have another go and just get started again. We did have another round pretty quickly but this time we went to the Cambridge clinic so that I could have my egg collection under a general anaesthetic. Second time around I had seven eggs retrieved, four of which fertilised and two were put in.

“Our embryo transfer took place on 12 May 2021 and then we had that horrible wait, which feels like a lifetime, until our test date. I felt like I was going crazy.

“Our test day was a Saturday morning and I’d got up quite early and done the test as you do because I couldn’t sleep. We did the test together and it was positive. James was in a state of shock and so I did another one and that was positive too. James then jumped in the car and went to the local supermarket and came back with a stash of more pregnancy tests and they were all positive too so then we jumped in the car at 7am to go over to my parents to tell them!

“That was great, but then of course we had the nine-week wait to see if it was a viable pregnancy – that was torture. During that time I had James’ eldest daughter’s hen do and wedding; I knew that I was pregnant for both but we had kept our treatment under wraps and I had to do the whole ‘pretend I was drinking’ thing. A lot of people said afterwards ‘I don’t know how you kept it quiet because you quite like a glass of wine!’

“We had a nine-week scan at Bourn Hall and our nurse Gemma got the screen up and then quickly turned it round to us and said ‘yep you are pregnant and there is one’ because we didn’t know if there was going to be one or two because two embryos had gone in.

“Hearing the strong heartbeat at the scan was just the most amazing feeling ever because it was like ‘I really am pregnant’.

The team at Bourn Hall have given me everything I ever wanted

The team at Bourn Hall have given me everything I ever wanted 

“We told James’ children and his dad and obviously my mum and dad but we didn’t actually ‘announce’ anything until after my 20 week scan.

“I loved being pregnant, in fact I really miss being pregnant!

“When Hattie arrived we both just sobbed. We felt overwhelming love and contentment, it was an experience that I can’t really describe.

“By the time I had Hattie most of my friends already had children, my best friend’s eldest is nearly 18 and in fact I was a nanna to James’s son’s little girl before I was a mum…

“Hattie is phenomenal, we are just so lucky, she is always smiling and is a little redhead. James’ late mum was redheaded so I think she has got nanny in her…

“We have got a lovely blended family. James’ son’s daughter is now two and a half and they have just had a baby boy. James’ daughter Alex, who set me and James up, recently had a little boy so Hattie will grow up with them and they will all be like little cousins. I have got a great relationship with James elder children and they absolutely love Hattie.

“We had a good experience at Bourn Hall and I popped in to the Norwich clinic recently with Hattie and some cupcakes for the team. I can’t thank them enough, they have given me everything I have always wanted.”