For Anna and Murielle, the passing of same-sex marriage legislation made everything seem possible, including having a family
Anna tells their story
I never even considered I’d have a family of my own one day. Not because I didn’t want one, but because I didn’t think it was possible for me. My partner, Murielle, who I met in 2013 through a social group in Reading, had felt the same.
The first same-sex marriages took place in 2014 and although Murielle and I didn’t feel we wanted to be married, the fact that we had rights seemed like such a big deal at the time. We thought, now that marriage is possible for us, having a family is possible, too.
We didn’t know much about IVF, so we looked into the adoption route. Then a gay friend had a baby through IVF and it made us think about this alternative. She had used Oxford Fertility and spoke highly of it.
In 2019, we decided to go to an Oxford Fertility open evening. It was very helpful and informative. When you go in, you are a complete novice to all things ‘IVF’, especially as a same sex couple. The Oxford team talked everything through in layman’s terms and they gave us information packs which were really helpful. We came out knowing what IVF was and what would be involved.
Although we’d started the process with Oxford Fertility, we switched to their Thames Valley clinic after that as it was closer to where we lived.
After having initial blood work done, we decided it would be me who would attempt IVF first as, although I was younger than Murielle, I had a lower egg reserve. We were ready to start our first cycle in February 2020. Murielle asked the nurse if she thought COVID would have an impact on our treatment. We all agreed that ‘of course it would not’ – and then the unimaginable happened and everything shut down.
Having that cancelled, you realise with a jolt that there is nothing else you can do but wait. It was really hard being stalled. You are aware your eggs are ageing. I wrote an academic paper during this period, based on research amongst a group of women who, similarly, had had their hopes put on hold*. It was a tough time as no one knew how long fertility clinics would have to remain closed for.
But luckily, treatment resumed in June 2020, so we didn’t have to wait too long.
We used a Danish sperm bank because it provided lot of information about the donor. We wanted our future child to know about him. We had his full medical history, family history, his height, weight, eye colour and hair colour, occupation and education. He’d also written a letter to any future children conceived from his donations and we felt very reassured by what was written in it.
The first cycle was quite tough. Although we got twelve eggs, which was pretty good, we only got one embryo. There was an unexpected problem as the sperm wouldn’t bind properly with my eggs. Unfortunately, although I did conceive, this pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage.
The second and third rounds, for which we used ICSI, also resulted in miscarriage, so further tests were done and I found out I was a carrier of a gene mutation called MTHFR. This isn’t uncommon, but it can influence how your body absorbs folic acid, and this can impact a pregnancy. So, the clinic put me on a high dose of folic acid alongside an increased dosage of progesterone.
To be honest, we weren’t feeling hopeful for the fourth attempt. We felt it was the last throw of the dice. The embryologist suggested they transfer two embryos. She did everything she could to make us feel at ease and said, ‘I don’t want to see you back here again!’.
I got pregnant with twins. We were in disbelief when we saw two heartbeats at our seven week viability scan. But then, at eight weeks, I bled and we thought it was game over. We went to A&E and lost one of the twins, but were beyond relieved to see that the other one had held on. We couldn’t believe it when we saw that our daughter was still there. We were lucky in the end.
The early pregnancy was hard as I suffered from severe nausea. I also struggled later on in the third trimester as I was so big and had very bad swelling. I was ginormous - it was ridiculous.
The birth was induced at 41 weeks and 3 days, and it ended in an emergency C-section. Élise was a very big baby – she was 10lb 6oz.
Life these days is wild – we can’t believe our daughter is finally here. Having a child is certainly life-changing! Taking care of a newborn requires a lot of adjusting, especially at a time when you are recovering from a C-section, but we feel incredibly lucky and are learning a lot.
We can’t wait to see Élise grow up and develop and, hopefully, become bilingual like Murielle. She’s meeting her French family for the first time in July.
* Life on pause: an analysis of UK patients’ coping mechanisms after the cancellation of fertility treatment due to COVID-19.