“I am an only child and have always wanted to have children,” says Jemma from Northamptonshire. “Then when I met Richard he told me on our second date that he had had a vasectomy!”
Richard is ten years older than Jemma and already had two children from his first marriage.
“When we had been together around three months we had ‘the conversation’ when I asked him if, despite having had a vasectomy, he would consider having any more children,” says Jemma, aged 31. “And I was really pleased when he said he would if it was with me.”
Considering the options for a family
Jemma and Richard first started looking into their options for having a child together when they got married six years ago.
“Initially we looked at adopting and went along to a meeting to find out more but, in the end, we didn’t feel that going down that road was right for us,” says Richard.
“We then went on holiday and started talking about me having a vasectomy reversal. When we got back Jemma led on doing all the research, contacted a clinic in Nottingham which we understood had high success rates for vasectomy reversals and I was booked in a month later.
“We drove to Nottingham for the procedure and initially the surgery was a success. Within a week of surgery I went to the toilet and felt a ‘twang’ and that unfortunately was the tube which had been reconnected breaking. I did a test afterwards and there was no sperm present, there was literally nothing, the vasectomy reversal, which had cost us £2,500, had failed.
“It was heartbreaking, but we were not going to give up and decided to look at fertility treatment.”
Fertility treatment found sperm
As Richard already had children, the couple, who at the time lived in St Neots, were not entitled to any NHS funding for IVF treatment.
“We knew that we were going to have to pay for IVF,” says Jemma, “I did loads of research, and we went to an open day at Bourn Hall.”
Next steps was for Richard to have a sperm retrieval procedure undertaken by Bourn Hall’s specialist urology team
“I went in to surgery at Bourn Hall and was put under a general anaesthetic whilst they stuck a needle in to the top of my testicles to see if they could extract any sperm,” explains Richard.
“They explained that if that didn’t work I would have to undergo a further procedure which involved opening up the testicles so I was having the ‘simple’ procedure first. Two hours after I came round from the ‘simple’ procedure I was told it had worked and Bourn Hall had collected six ampules of sperm which were then frozen. We were so pleased.
“The urologist did then suggest that we could have saved the money we spent on the vasectomy reversal and gone straight to Bourn Hall in the first place!”
During this time more and more of Jemma’s friends had become mums. “One of my friends found out she was pregnant but didn’t tell me because it was around the time of Richard’s sperm retrieval. I then realised that she and other friends had been trying to protect me by not telling me her pregnancy news and I know that they were just trying to be caring and sensitive but I then felt a bit isolated.”
Egg sharing to reduce cost of IVF
In order to reduce the cost of their IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Jemma and Richard had opted to take part in Bourn Hall’s egg sharing programme.
“I had to go through a ‘testing’ process to take part in the egg sharing programme,” explains Jemma. “My blood, genes etc were checked before we could move forward.”
The IVF treatment was successful on the couple’s second attempt – and they egg shared with both treatments.
“The minimum egg requirement for egg sharing is eight eggs and I produced nine on both occasions,” says Jemma. “Both of my treatments were exactly the same, I shared four eggs and kept five for our treatment; three of which were fertilised using Richard’s defrosted sperm and only one was good enough to transfer.
In my head it had to work
“Our first embryo transfer was in March three years ago, the same week as my 27th birthday.
In my head it ‘had’ to work, I had read everything I could on the subject, looked at every website, got every app, I wouldn’t eat cress in salads in case there was bacteria in it…..I went too far. So I was devastated when it didn’t work. We had planned to invite all our family over for Easter because we would know if the treatment had worked by then or not.
“And then when I wasn’t pregnant we couldn’t exactly ‘uninvite’ everyone so we still had everyone over for Easter and put a brave face on.
“Originally Richard and I discussed waiting 6 months before having any more treatment but when we went in to Bourn Hall for our follow-up meeting they said we could start again straight away if we wanted. That even shocked Richard a little bit!
“The only change to our treatment second time around was that I had an endometrial scratch.
To us it was everything
I convinced myself that the treatment hadn’t worked and so kind of relaxed a bit more than I did the first time around. When we did the pregnancy test it looked negative and so I put it on the side in the bathroom and then looked at it again a minute later and there was a really faint line…..so we weren’t sure if we were pregnant or not. The next day I went out and bought a digital test which confirmed that I was pregnant we couldn’t believe it!
“And oh that first scan at Bourn Hall was so weird our baby was the size of a peanut, not even that big, but we could see his little heart going and that made it feel real. We got this print-out of the scan and I remember showing people and for those who had already had kids it was ‘nothing’ like ‘what am I looking at?’ but to us it was everything.”
Born just in time for Father’s Day
Jemma and Richard’s son Harrison was born on 26 May 2020 – a week after they had moved house from Cambridgeshire to Northamptonshire – and a month before Father’s Day.
“He is definitely a daddy’s boy,” laughs Jemma.
“We would definitely recommend Bourn Hall. The main thing I noticed when we went to Bourn Hall Cambridge was that it didn’t feel like a hospital, more like a hotel! And inside it didn’t have that horrible hospital smell or surgical feeling.
“The woman I spoke to on the phone at Bourn Hall was so compassionate and lovely right from the start whereas some of the other clinics I contacted were more ‘businesslike’.
“The way I was dealt with on the phone was what sold Bourn Hall to me really and why we went there. And once we got there the nurses and doctors couldn’t do enough for us.”