Donor conception to the birth of Your IVF abroad - Emma Haslam
I have to pinch myself regularly. From a place of desperation and adversity came a wonderful opportunity to truly make a difference in this world, by helping others on their trying to conceive journeys.
In December 2019 my husband Adam and I set up Your IVF abroad, a service that offers fertility clinic matching in Europe, books your treatment and then organises everything for you - saving you a ton of money along the way, as let's face it fertility treatment is not cheap and sadly often takes more than one cycle. Our service gives access to those who don’t ‘qualify’ (hate that word) for treatment in their home countries, helps with the paperwork, sits between them and the clinic to ensure they have clarity and an advocate all the way along. Most importantly we provide our clients with support to answer the questions you don’t yet know you have. Why? because we have been there - four times (more on that later), so we know what our community needs instinctively. We get ‘it’ and get ‘you’ and we have made it our mission to make fertility treatment a more affordable, accessible and supported choice, for as many people as possible.
It’s my dream job and more than that, a real passion project. I find the work cathartic and love being able to make a genuine difference to peoples lives in this way, removing faff and stress where possible which allows time and headspace to concentrate on the important bits. Your IVF abroad allows us to give people the best value for their money at world class clinics, making treatment more accessible for everyone, including those who may have a higher BMI, are single, older or need donation support, all without a waiting list. With my love of travel and the benefits it brings it makes me happy that our clients are able to take a break away from the stresses of home and work while having their treatment. Oh and we don’t take any commission which means we are truly unique in the UK and our clients know we have their back, 100%. Any money offered from the clinics is given back to our clients - negating a good chunk of our fee.
So that’s where we are today, but how did we get here? I met Adam in 2013 and after a whirlwind romance and two dates later (yep that’s right) I left to go travelling around the world for a year. We stayed in touch, Adam’s Dad sadly passed away from Cancer and he decided to come and join me in Australia, where we travelled, worked and finished the trip with a month in New Zealand living the dream. I returned home with a soon to be fiance almost 15 months later. Life was good. It was 2014 we had moved into a flat together, got jobs easy enough, were engaged and had started ‘casually’ trying to conceive. Six months of the casual turned into six months of all the tricks/old wives tales, yet I still was not pregnant. We visited the GP who said there were some ‘issues’ (another awful word) and referred us through to Gynecology who through more testing discovered that I had low AMH and was perimenopausal and that Adam had low Sperm count and motility. We had a 4-5% chance of conceiving through IVF and if we were to be offered it on the NHS I needed to lose six stone to get my BMI down to just under 35. I remember this day well and it was one of the worst days of my life. Surely we could just take a tablet or something and fix this? Aside from a higher BMI we were young and healthy. Once we had gotten over the shock and upset I managed to find the determination needed to lose the weight, even when our chances were so low as giving up was not an option. We came away from that appointment with determination that even though the chances of success were so low, someone had to be in the 4%-5% right, so why not us? I worked really hard over the next two years to lose the weight sensibly, Adam supported me and lost a shed load too. We returned to the hospital two years later feeling really healthy and positive, only to be told that the rules in our CCG area had changed and that to qualify now I would need to lose a further 2.5 stone. I was a size 14/16, 5’10” who was eating well and exercising regularly. I was healthy and fit, yet now didn’t qualify for treatment in my area, but if we had lived a few miles down the road I would have still qualified. This must be a joke without a punchline? The Dr was embarrassed and admitted that privately I would be able to access treatment with my BMI now at just under 35.
I was devastated, I felt like I was going to collapse to the ground, my heart was racing and my head spinning. All hope had gone. We left the appointment with no options apart from to lose weight and off we went feeling completely and utterly miserable.
I decided I didn’t feel I could lose any more weight without resorting to drastic unhealthy measures, plus I was acutely aware of my low AMH and perimenopause like a ticking time bomb and I didn’t want to waste another second. We began to look at the cost of private fertility treatment in the UK and after moving back in with parents to save, putting our lives on hold we quickly realised we could only afford one round and that felt like far too much pressure, particularly on those odds. We began our search abroad, found the whole process overwhelming, but after lots of research and a few free consultations we selected the clinic we knew was right for us.
During consultation donor treatment was discussed and suddenly our chances of conception grew to 60%-70%. Also, the clinic was so confident it would work after two rounds they would give us our third for free if not and we didn’t have to pay for a multi-cycle either, just one at once as we may only need one round. Wow. What came next? Hope.
To hear that we needed donor egg and sperm support was of course a lot to take in, the loss of our genetics, the grief that may follow and the potential worries about how a future child may feel about this decision. However, what it also did was give us an option that we had never considered and much higher odds of success. As the odds were so high we knew it would probably work in 2-3 cycles and because the treatment was so much cheaper, we knew we could afford this many cycles if needed.
Following that hideous last appointment with Gynecology we did look into other paths to parenthood and ruled out those that weren’t right for us, but at no point had donor support been mentioned or considered and we felt excited and hopeful again for the first time in a long time. We knew there would be no question about the love we would feel if we were lucky enough to become parents, by whatever means and that we would make sure any children born as a result of donor support would themselves be well supported, and this is the same for all children anyway, right?
We had four rounds in total, including a cancelled cycle due to a pesky Ovarian Cyst. On our last and free cycle we conceived twins, but sadly we lost one of them at 10 weeks, which was of course heartbreaking. Now thanks to science, medicine and some pretty amazing people who chose to donate their egg and sperm, giving us the greatest gift of all, we now have a two year old beautiful little boy. Albie looks like us and is like us in nature thanks I guess to epigenetics and some nature/nurture. I am truly blessed to be a parent and that donor support was an option for us to consider. Without it I would not have experienced pregnancy and birth and the opportunity to become Albie’s Mum. We could not love him anymore and wouldn’t change anything, as to do so would be to change him and he’s perfect as he is. We are his parents, categorically, no question.
Do I sometimes get scared about the future and how he may react to his story? Yes of course, at times, but I stop myself, because who knows what is going to happen or how he will feel. I refuse to spend more time on what Infertility has taken away from me. I am focusing on the positives, enjoying my little boy who without donor support would not be here now and by helping others who are trying to conceive. A big f*ck you to infertility. What I do know for sure are the things I can control. Albie will always know how loved he is, that we will always support him, how much we wanted him and that genetics are part of his story, but only one part of it. Love makes a family, not genetics. I hope this helps some of you who I know are struggling and I send you lots of love.
Instagram and Facebook - @yourivfabroad
Facebook free, confidential and closed support group - Infertility Warriors - let battle commence, a space where we share and support others trying to conceive with infertility. Link below.