My partner, Lloyd, has polycystic kidneys. It’s a hereditary disease that can lead to kidney failure and Lloyd’s dad had a kidney transplant at 50. We wanted to avoid passing it down to our children.
After tests at the John Ratcliffe in Oxford, we got a referral to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where they have a specialist fertility wing with high success rates for PGT (preimplantation genetic testing), which is what we needed.
The process took so long – months and months of waiting. We were waiting for our first face-to-face appointment, which was booked for May 2020, but two months before that, the country went into lockdown. The hospital emailed and said the appointment was cancelled. I was devasted. It had been a year and a half since our first appointment with our local doctor.
Rearranging the appointment consumed my life. COVID had hit the NHS so hard that the hospital was incredibly difficult to get hold of, so you couldn’t ask how long the waiting list was. In the end, I used social media to find people in the same position as me and found out it would be another year’s wait. Lockdown, and the need to implement social distancing, had dramatically slowed down what they could offer. When I managed to speak to one of the hospital staff, they confirmed this.
I felt so down. I started making calls and looking on the internet for alternatives. At that point, I thought I’d ring Oxford Fertility, which was only fifteen minutes away from where we live, in Kidlington. When I called, they said they’d get the lady who dealt with PGT to ring me back. I thought, OK, they won’t call me. Then it got to 5pm and I thought, I definitely won’t hear now.
Then at 7pm that night I did get a call, and it was Annie from Oxford Fertility. It was so lovely to hear from her. She’d gone above and beyond to help me. She said, yes, we do that, but because you’ve started with Guy’s, we don’t know if we can transfer you over. She said, leave it with me and I’ll ask.
Annie was good at keeping me in the loop and within days she told me I could be transferred. Even though Guy’s and St Thomas’ had started the technical work on my case, building the probe which would test for our particular genetic condition, it had been agreed that the NHS would now allow us to start from scratch at Oxford. I was told I could start the next month. I had such a good feeling about this. It felt like I was in safe hands.
From then, it was such a quick experience, even though we were in lockdown. Treatment started in August and the first round resulted in 16 embryos, two blastocycsts – and one successful pregnancy. We were tentative up to the eight-week scan, but when that looked good, we felt reassured. We just couldn’t believe it.
I was so impressed with the experience at Oxford Fertility that I got hold of a senior manger’s email address. I wrote to her about my experience and mentioned Annie and all the nurses who helped us.
The pregnancy was tough as I felt so sick and had bad headaches. Then the birth ended in a C-section, which was not what I’d wanted. But then Max arrived, at 8lb 11oz, and it was all worth it.
Life is busy now but really nice. I’m still on maternity leave and every day we do something different; a music class, a coffee with a friend or a walk. It is hard, but in a good way. People always say, surely you want to go back to work for a break, but I think, no, this is far more enjoyable than work!
As for the future, we have one good quality embryo saved and then two others which aren’t such good quality. We’d need to take advice if we were planning to use those two.
I always thought that if I had more children, I’d want them close together. But now I’ve got Max, I want to give him my full attention until he’s at nursery. I couldn’t do that if I had a toddler and a baby. We’ll wait for a bit.