When Gemma turned 30, she had everything she wanted, a good career working as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Middlesex University and her own home outside Chelmsford. Yet there was something missing – a family of her own. Although she didn’t have a partner, she knew it was the right time for her to have a baby and she began to do her research about how she might go about doing this on her own.
“It was a long decision-making process,” Gemma says. “I weighed everything up and considered all the pros and cons. I felt I was at a good age to have children, as after 30, my fertility levels would start to drop. In an ideal world, there would have been a man on the scene and the perfect conventional family but so far, things hadn’t worked out that way and I didn’t want to wait just in case it did. I also have an amazing support network from both family and friends, and I felt confident that with that in place, I would be fine. I’ve always been independent, with my own home, living alone and so it all added up.”
Gemma continues: “I looked online and found that Simply Fertility was really close by and so I gave them a call. They were so friendly and I was able to find out lots of information over the phone, information that I thought I would have needed a consultation for. There was an Open Day the following week and so I went along. I spoke with Andy and also had a one-to-one with Annette, one of the nurses and between them, I had lots of opportunities to ask questions and meet the team. They were all so friendly, it was such a nice atmosphere, and there was no need to explain why I was doing this on my own.
“After the Open Day, I booked a consultation with Mr Gangooly and had all the fertility tests and went from there. During my consultation, Mr Gangooly explained that there was an option to donate half my harvested eggs. This really appealed to me. It did mean a reduction in the costs but the main reason was that I was going to benefit from someone who had decided to donate their sperm. By donating my eggs, I felt like I was helping someone else as well. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I believe in Karma; someone was helping me with donor sperm, I should help someone else – so I donated half my eggs to my recipient before fertilisation.”
Simply Fertility were so helpful throughout, so friendly and so informative and the care I received there was amazing. I am so grateful for Amelie and Madison, they've changed my world.
Gemma had decided to choose her sperm donor from the bank held at Simply Fertility. She says, “I did that because their criteria are much stricter than others I’d looked at. I also had the reassurance that they had all been vetted by the Simply Fertility team in person. I trust their judgement and have great faith in the nurses and so it felt like a trustworthy process.”
She says she didn’t want to overthink her selection too much because otherwise she might have found it difficult to actually choose. Armed with a list of preferences covering hair, eyes, height, occupation, health, proven fertility and so on, one donor jumped out at her and she went with her instincts.
Her first embryo transfer wasn’t successful and the embryo didn’t implant. With five embryos frozen, Gemma waited until she felt she was ready to try again, and this time she asked if she could have two embryos transferred.
“I had to be positive and I wanted two transferred to give me the best possible chance. Mr Gangooly talked to me very seriously about the risks of twin pregnancies to mothers and how it’s likely the babies are born premature and the risks involved there too, but I was determined and decided to go ahead.”
Gemma remembers testing for this pregnancy really early on. “You’re advised to wait for 12 days after the procedure, but I tested after about four and it came up positive straight away. Then you have to wait for the viability scan at about seven weeks. A few weeks before that, I got really bad stomach cramps at night and phoned the clinic. They were so helpful and reassuring; there was no bleed and the cramps were only at night. They went on for five nights – and I phoned every morning for reassurance.
“At week seven, the viability scan showed two babies and I was over the moon. My pregnancy wasn’t straightforward though. At about week 10/11, I had a bleed and went up to the EPU at Chelmsford, but all was fine. I suffered from severe morning sickness up until halfway through my second trimester and then had a brilliant couple of weeks, where I felt amazing. I then went for a routine scan and found out that my blood pressure was really high. After that, I had to go to Broomfield hospital twice-weekly for blood pressure and foetal heart monitoring because I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.”
Gemma was admitted to hospital at 33 weeks because her blood pressure was too high and she’d began to feel unwell, experiencing chest pains, headaches, water retention and swelling. The maternity team decided to perform an emergency C-section three days later. Gemma had known her babies wouldn’t go to 40 weeks, as many twin pregnancies don’t, so had a planned C-section booked for 38 weeks, but she was concerned about her babies born at 33 weeks and five days.
“My mum was my birthing partner and she was there with me. Amelie was born first, with respiratory distress, and I remember feeling relieved that she was crying. Madison was born second and she was crying too, which was such a massive relief. Madison was brought to me first because Amelie was having support. I had a kiss and a cuddle with Madison and then she was taken to special care. Amelie was brought over too for a quick cuddle and then she was taken to intensive care because she needed oxygen.
“I went off to recovery after my spinal block and so mum went down to see the twins. It took about three hours for my spinal block to fade but I was so determined to see the girls that after about 90 minutes I stood up and tried to walk. The midwives looked after me so well and wheeled me down in a wheelchair to see my new daughters.
“It was quite a shock seeing them in incubators and they were in separate rooms too due to different medical needs, which I found quite upsetting as I didn’t like the thought of them not being together. Still, they were good weights for their age, 4lbs 6 oz and 4lbs 7oz so I was positive. They had a lot of issues to overcome in their first 12 days but after we got through all of that, I was able to take them home.
“The girls are ten weeks old now and so tiny compared to babies of the same age that we see at the baby groups I go to. Although it’s too early really to be thinking about it, I will be going back to work. I’m fortunate that I will be able to work from home part of the week. Mum is going to be my childcare too which she is really excited about. Simply Fertility were so helpful throughout, so friendly and so informative and the care I received there was amazing. I am so grateful for Amelie and Madison, they’ve changed my world.”