10th February 2023
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A beautiful testimonial from two of our patients.
And a great reminder of the impact we have on people’s lives.
“We began our fertility journey almost ten years ago at a London Clinic. Friends of ours had recently had treatment there which was very quick and successful. We thought that given it was central London, Harley Street that surely it would be the best of the best. How wrong we were!
We began with the usual consultant visit, testing protocols and counselling. Everything seemed absolutely wonderful! My identical twin had conceived three babies naturally, so we really didn’t anticipate any issues at all. My AMH came back extremely high, but I was sent a letter telling me it was extremely low and that someone would contact me. This was very confusing. The clinic told me they’d sent me the wrong letter and that my levels were just the opposite. They were extremely high, and I had “loads of eggs” which was apparently fantastic. I did my own research and questioned this… Being so high could mean polycystic couldn’t it? But no, I was reassured a new letter would be sent out and IUI was perfect for me.
We had two treatments with them. IUI and stimulated IUI. Following insemination, I sat up and the lady told us “Congratulations, you are pregnant”! It was very bizarre. We were filled with so much false hope. When I had questions about the timing of the insemination and the use of ovulation kits, there was no one to answer, unless we wanted to pay £65 for a telephone consultation. Every question we asked the nurse we were told everything was absolutely perfect and not to worry. After the second failed IUI attempt, something did not feel right. We were simply on a conveyer belt. No follow up review, no advice, no after care.
So, we began to explore other options and emailed a few other clinics… one of which was Herts & Essex Fertility Centre! From the very first email contact, we were instantly greeted by warmth, and it was very clear from the outset that this was a professional team who truly cared about their patients.
The usual testing was done, and we had our first meeting with the wonderful consultant, Michael Ah-Moye. He took the time to listen to our journey to date, what we had been through and shared my test results with compassion, honesty and complete professionalism. I left that consultation with hope. At last, I understood the best way forward and that the problem with the treatment I’d had to date was that it was designed for someone without PCOS. My AMH score, test results and scan made it very clear that the best option for us was IVF.
We then embarked on the IVF journey through egg sharing. Sarah Templeman and Debbie Evans provided amazing advice and support. They seemed to sense that we had already been through a lot and guided us with patience and care. We quickly developed trust and confidence in our team which is something we hadn’t experienced previously. They genuinely cared about our treatment, and we knew we could rely on them doing the best thing for us. This was a significant turning point for me particularly as I lost complete confidence that my body could do anything right at all.
Our third treatment (and first with Herts & Essex) was IVF, using my eggs and donor sperm. We opted for ICSI, the endometrial scratch and embryo glue. I had been chosen as an egg donor and therefore the process had to be very carefully synchronised with my recipient’s surrogate. We were just on the verge of starting our first stimulation when the surrogate got an unexpected follicle developing during treatment. I remember being stood in the middle of Liverpool City centre when I got the call. We were away visiting friends at the time and hadn’t taken sufficient pills with me. This was no trouble for Sarah who quickly found a way to get a prescription to me. The delay was frustrating, particularly as I’d had the endometrial scratch (ouch!) but this helped us to realise that blips should be expected in fertility treatment. Our friends had experienced a perfect, plain sailing, first time lucky IUI. So, we hadn’t expected such significant bumps in the road, but this is advice we now give anyone beginning treatment; You WILL encounter hurdles and unexpected blips in your treatment… The most important thing is to have a wonderful team to guide and support you through them.
We started the cycle again and this time everything ran much more smoothly. Egg collection was successful, we had enough to share, and I felt really positive that finally my body was working! On test day, I started bleeding, but something made me test anyway and it was positive. I contacted the clinic straight away and they got me straight in and did a blood test. But because the team had got to know me so well by this point, Sarah Templeman worked out quickly that it was my body not really taking to the Cyclogest pessaries containing progesterone. She got me on injections and the bleeding stopped. At week ten we went for the scan, very excited. But sadly, the sac was empty, and I’d experienced a missed miscarriage. This was an enormous shock, completely unexpected. Debbie was truly amazing, and her immediate focus was on looking after us while we processed it and that we had a nurse (Soriah) on hand to provide support. We weren’t rushed out. We were cared for and given time to process it before we left the clinic.
I went back on the donor list, but this time with a miscarriage to my history. It was unlikely I’d be selected again but we tried it. A month or so later, we were back in the clinic. It was now 2015 and we had a very honest and open follow up meeting with Sarah Templeman about next steps. She suggested testing my wife Sam, with a view to consider reciprocal IVF. This was never part of the plan! Sam is terrified of needles to start with, and I had always wanted to have my own genetic babies. Sam’s AMH came back below the optimum range for egg sharing, but the scans showed that she was anatomically a very fertile woman, so we decided to go ahead.
This time, everything was different. The process was in fact even better because we were both playing a crucial part in the process. Egg collection was really successful, on day five (and six) we ended up with six really good embryos which was so beyond our wildest dreams! The lovely David Ogutu transferred two embryos (despite being advised against it! Sorry Herts & Essex) and we froze the remaining four. Both embryos implanted and this time it was very, VERY clear that it was successful as the nausea and morning sickness kicked in very quickly. The ten-week scan was nerve wracking to say the least, but this again was handled sensitively. The joy that we were having twins was indescribable and it was amazing to share it with Sarah, Debbie and the team. Our girls were born on 26th February 2016, and we were blessed again with a third daughter via frozen embryo transfer in December 2018.
Suitable sperm donor! Well – this was initially one of the most difficult parts of our journey. We had lots of fun browsing the London Sperm Bank (for the super sperm donors – as sold to us!). We used a Scandinavian dentist, a pilot…. We could go on. But when we moved to Herts & Essex, we started to think very differently about donors. We initially were selecting features which matched my wife’s, but actually, this became the least important factor after a while. Instead, we looked closely at pen pictures. We wanted someone NOT anonymous and someone who actually had been through fertility treatment themselves. Choosing a donor became more about finding someone who would be supportive of our children, if in the future they had questions, rather than the perfect features and job description! For our successful treatment, we actually asked our nurse, who knew us very, very well by this point, to choose a proven donor (as we needed to rule this out) and I requested attached ear lobes! Jokes aside, our donor was clearly perfect for us, because this method resulted in our successful IVF attempt.
The hardest part of our journey was twofold.
1. Being at the London clinic for whom we were just another set of patients. The amount of money we had, would determine our care. They told us what (they thought) we wanted to hear, rather than what we needed to hear to be successful. This was confusing and I blamed myself for it not working. Michael took the time to explain what my fertility issues were, helped me understand the best way forward and was honest.
2. The miscarriage was really tough because I’d really believed it had worked and that finally it was happening. I now realise, we learnt a lot from that situation and as sad and difficult as it was, it helped us change our treatment plan and ensure the next was really successful. But we couldn’t have got through this without the support and care of the team.
Advice to other mummies:
· Choose a clinic that will go on the journey with you, get to know you and care!
· Honesty is so important. Get the tests, listen to the advice and be guided by the experts. No amount of online research can fully prepare you.
· Expect the blips. There will be some. From the number of follicles developing, to the number of eggs fertilised after collection, to the number of embryos left each day. The aim is to find the BEST embryos, not to have lots of embryos.
We sought support from the team at Herts & Essex. They were just amazing. From the moment we walked in through the door to be greeted by the wonderful assessment team, to the fabulous finance ladies who always showed great compassion and care being the last to see you before you left the clinic. Our nursing team were just incredible, through the good times and the bad. They saw us through it all. Nothing was too much trouble, they were and are so giving of their time via email, phone or in person. I don’t believe we would have our family without them, because we were close to giving up.
Now we visit the clinic twice a year with our children (except for the pandemic) and we talk to our children about the whole experience. We have completed our family now, but Herts & Essex will continue to be part of our lives forever. Our children know how special the clinic is to us, they know how they were made (in child’s speak) and the wonderful people at the clinic are part of their story. They know that Sarah, Debbie, Michael, David are real life heroes, and we would not have our family without them.”