As a same-sex couple, Colleen and Lisa always knew they’d need support to create their own family, and they knew instinctively that they’d make a great team as parents. They joke that Lisa is ‘the emotional one’ in their relationship and Colleen is more ‘British, stiff upper lip’.
Lisa had always known she wanted to be a mum, but she felt that her endometriosis would make carrying a baby more challenging. The couple decided that Colleen would be the better option as the biological parent - and Lisa hoped that as the ‘non-bio’ she wouldn’t feel left out during the IVF process.
The couple had chosen TFP Oxford Fertility for their IVF as it was close to home and they had, by chance, spotted an advert for an open evening. Lisa said: “We went along out of interest but by the time we left that event, we had decided that if we went for IVF, we were going to use that clinic. There were so many types of people there: older couples and same-sex couples. It was great to see and we were made to feel very welcome. We looked around all the treatment rooms, too. It was very high-tech.”
A little while later (and they admit to feeling a bit nervous and dragging their heels) Colleen had all the health checks and the couple used the clinic’s sperm bank to select their donor. Colleen said: “We were using my eggs as I was going to carry the baby, so we decided to choose a sperm donor who sounded like Lisa.”
As they were using a sperm donor, the couple were required to have implications counselling.
“The TFP Fertility counsellor was excellent,” said Lisa. “It felt very familiar right away and she really put us at ease. We talked to her quite a bit about how to speak to our baby about his parentage and the fact that he doesn’t have a dad – but that he’s allowed to find the donor when he’s 18.”
They were provided with resources and a book to read to their child when he was old enough.
The first round of treatment took place, but at the point where medication was used to trigger the release of the eggs, ready for collection, Colleen’s ovaries became overstimulated, causing her abdominal pain, and she needed to spend a night in hospital under observation.
“I work at that hospital, so it felt a bit odd being a patient there,” said Colleen. “Our nurse was fantastic though. We were a bit stressed, thinking that our IVF process may be interrupted.”
Luckily, Colleen was discharged the next day and the planned egg collection, followed by a fresh egg transfer, were able to take place shortly afterwards.
The IVF worked and Colleen was pregnant. But at the first scan, there was a problem. Colleen said: “We were looking forward to seeing the tiny little baby on the screen, but there was nothing there. The clinician wouldn’t rule out the pregnancy because sometimes the embryo takes a while to implant, but at a follow-up scan we got the news we’d been dreading – there was an egg sac present but there was nothing in it. We’d had a missed miscarriage.”
Both women work for the NHS. Colleen is a physiotherapy assistant working on trauma wards and Lisa is a mental health administrator. In these environments, both of them have become experienced at dealing with difficult situations, but the miscarriage was particularly challenging for them.
“All your hopes are really up, so that was very, very hard,” said Colleen. “I don’t know if it’s because I come from a big family, but I thought I would be quite fertile. This was a shock.”
“I think I was over-emotional,” said Lisa. “I had already loved this baby from the moment I saw the line on the pregnancy test. Luckily Colleen was sensible about it all and helped us through it and we have the scan photo of the little baby to remember him by.”
Missed miscarriages occur in between one and five per cent of pregnancies and specialist counselling is available via TFP Fertility for couples needing support.
Colleen and Lisa were still determined and after four months, tried again. Colleen said: “Nothing happened, and we were so sad, but we tried for a third time and the transfer worked. Brilliant! The six-week scan, where we finally saw the little foetus, was the most amazing, emotional experience of our lives.”
Baby Elijah arrived after a straightforward pregnancy and the couple report he is ‘the best baby’ and is doted on by his grandparents.
As the non-biological mum of the couple, Lisa reports that, thankfully, she did feel included at every stage. “I was impressed at how the clinic treated me. Every single decision included me, whether about a drug or an outcome we’d have to face. Even when they scanned Colleen, they asked for my permission. There were legal reasons for doing all this, but it still made me feel very included and connected to what was happening,” said Lisa.
“I’m so glad Colleen was able to do this for us and give me the most magical experience of my entire life,” she added.
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