Tom – “Amy and I met at work – we’re both teachers at a secondary school near Oxford. We’d bought a house and married but were having problems conceiving. The problem was that I’d had an undescended testicle as a child and this had impacted my fertility. We started thinking about IVF.
“Lockdown delayed our plans but as soon as the clinics were open, we were ready. We’d found Oxford Fertility on our own. We didn’t realise how lucky we were to have it on our doorstep. Other friends haven’t been so lucky.
“We opted to privately fund the process because otherwise we’d have to try to conceive naturally for two years before the NHS would consider us.
“So, I went for a semen analysis and luckily I had enough good quality sperm and it could be used. At the beginning of this process, we didn’t know anything about ICSI – intracytoplasmic sperm injection – but this is what the clinic recommended, and it has made a massive difference to our lives. What happens is that they inject each individual sperm into an egg, rather than letting them fuse naturally. So, they make fertilisation happen. We ended up with nine eggs fertilised and three made it to day five.”
Amy – “The egg collection was uncomfortable, but the transfer was fine - a bit like having a smear test. Unfortunately, though, the first cycle was unsuccessful. I guess that wasn’t the Phoebe embryo. The second cycle was easier because we already had two embryos ready. They monitored my period and put in the embryos at the correct point in my cycle. After the first round I’d got my period the day before the official pregnancy test. The second time, though, I cheated. I took the test early.
“I couldn’t tell you what it was, but I felt different this time. As soon as we’d left the clinic, I felt somehow lightheaded. So, it was three or four days before the official test date that I took the first pregnancy test. I did it in half light and got back into bed waiting for the two minutes to be up. I thought I saw a faint line, so I put the light on and said ‘Tom, can you see a line? Can you see two lines?’ Two lines meant I was pregnant. And we could, very faintly, see two lines.
“After that, I kept taking tests repeatedly just in case it changed. Then, on the required day, I took the official test the clinic had given me and logged the result. I was pregnant!
“For the first 16 weeks of the pregnancy I was incredibly sick and had heartburn. The last ten to twelve weeks were the best. It was great having a bump, especially once she started to kick.
“I wanted to use the Wantage maternity unit – a midwife led unit – for the birth. I planned to use gas and air and to have a water birth. But Phoebe had other ideas. She was delivered after 36 hours by forceps at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. I never even made it to the maternity unit because my waters had broken, but the contractions hadn’t started, so I needed antibiotics in case of infection. So, despite our careful planning, that’s how Phoebe arrived.”
Tom – “She’s eight months old now and the main thing to say about our Phoebe is that she loves her food! A lot. She’ll eat anything. We are currently 94 items into a list of 100 foods to try with her. She’s a particular fan of Weetabix. She can eat as many Weetabix as an adult.
“She’s at the crawling stage but she’s crawling backwards. She’ll see something she wants to investigate and then crawl away from it. Very frustrating for her.
“My feedback on the clinic is that I liked the honesty. They tell you the truth – sometimes directly. I like that. You don’t feel you are being sold something. In fact, we are starting to investigate another round of IVF. We lost the first embryo and then used the other two for the second round, so we need to start from scratch.”
Amy – “I’d like to do it sooner rather than later. As easy as the clinic made it, it was still a difficult process. We don’t want it hanging over us. Even if we don’t immediately opt to have the embryo transfer done, we’d rather have the eggs collected, fertilised and frozen than know that is lurking in the future at some point. As we’re both teachers, we’re thinking of doing this during a summer holiday when we have more time.
“Our main experience of the clinic was during lockdown. The waiting room was the car park. It could have been very formal, but the staff still gave you all the time you needed. I had to do most of the appointments without Tom there, but I never once felt alone.”