As a single woman in her late 20s, Rachel had a great life: a home of her own, a successful career and plenty of family and friends around her. All that was missing was a child to cherish. And once she began her fertility treatment, it seemed natural to give something back so that other women could be given the gift of a baby.
"I really didn’t want the pressure of trying to find a partner just so I could have a child with them."
“You don’t search for a partner just so you can have a baby”
Rachel had always been open with her family about her plans.
“I said to my mum, if I don’t have a partner by the time I’m 40, I’ll go ahead and have a baby anyway,” said Rachel. “I thought – I’m not going to wait until I’m 40. I felt it was the right time for me, so I took the plunge. TFP Nurture rang me back straight away”
TPF’s Nurture clinic in Nottingham was five minutes up the road from Rachel, so it felt logical to contact our team there. She liked the quick, welcoming response and, after her first appointment, felt reassured she had made the right choice.
From then on, things happened rapidly.
Rachel had blood tests done to assess her hormone levels and an internal ultrasound to check her ovaries. Everything was healthy.
“It didn’t even occur to me that I’d have any fertility issues. I just thought, this is what I’m going to do – let’s go for it,” she said.
“It never crossed my mind that I might choose IVF not IUI”
The TFP Nurture team discussed Rachel’s options with her. IUI (intrauterine insemination, where healthy sperm are chosen from a sample in our lab and inserted into your womb) was the least invasive option, allowing the body to conceive naturally.
However, because of this, it can take several rounds to succeed. IVF (in vitro fertilisation, where an egg is removed from the ovaries and fertilised by sperm in a lab) had a higher success rate.
“I thought IVF was for people who can’t have babies naturally. But once I considered all the facts, I made the decision to have IVF as I wouldn’t have dealt well with repeated attempts at IUI. If it took six goes, it would have cost me more in the long run,” said Rachel.
“Choosing my sperm donor was like online dating minus the pictures”
Rachel found choosing a sperm donor straightforward. “I am quite decisive. I have friends who took weeks and weeks over this. I found it easy to pick someone from the European Sperm Bank who had the right hair, eye colour and height and just sounded right for me. Then TFP Nurture ordered two vials of his sperm for me,” she said.
The process needed to be co-ordinated, as Rachel had also made the decision to be an egg donor. This meant the TFP team needed to find the right recipient for her eggs - and the recipient’s body needed to be ready to receive the eggs. Timing was everything.
Our team had spoken to Rachel about potentially being an egg donor shortly after her consultation.
“My thought process was that I was using a sperm donor – and I felt so grateful to that donor. If that’s a gift you can give to someone, then why not. It was such an easy decision,” she said.
She attended a counselling session, where a TFP counsellor discussed what she might expect from being a recipient and a donor. At 18, children conceived from her eggs could contact her. And if she had a child, that child could contact their father at 18, too.
“There were no issues which I was worried about,” she said.
With the donor sperm in storage and the decision made to go the IVF route, the TFP team prepared Rachel’s body for her egg collection with a short course of medication and injections to stimulate her egg production - and then a trigger injection to induce the final maturation of the eggs and their release from the follicle wall.
“I did all the injections myself”
Rachel’s mum lives around the corner, as do her sister and brother, so her support network is there for her. But when it came to the injections, she felt she needed to be independent. “I don’t think I could have let someone do them. If you do it yourself, you do it in the right way and in the right spot,” she said.
“We got eight eggs, and I donated four”
The four donated eggs were frozen, ready for the recipient, and the remaining four were mixed with the sperm so they could be fertilised naturally.
Rachel said that this was the most worrying time for her. “You ask yourself, are your eggs going to make good embryos? Is the transfer going to be ok? I was very matter of fact. It might not work. There are no guarantees.
“The clinic kept me updated whilst the embryos grew. You always worry when they phone, is it going to be good news or not? But it was good that they kept you in the loop.
“The feeling on day five was great. Two of the fertilised eggs had grown into blastocysts and the plan was to transfer one back into my body.”
“It is amazing to watch the transfer”
The transfer went well. “They told me to watch for the little flicker of light when the embryo is put into the lining of the uterus,” said Rachel. The white flash is caused by the release of an air bubble as the embryo is delivered to exactly the right spot by the catheter.
“After that,” said Rachel, “I left and went for a walk around the park and then carried on my day as normal. And I waited for the full two weeks before taking a pregnancy test. I told myself that if I did the test early, it might be negative because it was too early. It was better to wait.”
Rachel woke up early on ‘test day’. When it was positive, she phoned her TFP team and told her mum and sister. “That was it. I waited for the full 12 weeks before I told anyone else,” she said.
“I brought my baby home, and I thought, this is life now!”
When baby Evelyn was born, Rachel took to motherhood quickly and easily. Her mum stayed for the first two nights but then Rachel was keen to try nights on her own. “I don’t get phased by anything really. I’m a chilled out, go with the flow type person,” she said.
She found being a single mum was easy, too. “It is just me and it is what I chose to do. Luckily Evelyn was a good sleeper!”
“I told TFP Nurture I wanted to donate my eggs again”
"The second time I contacted TFP Nurture and said I wanted to do it again. I wanted to help someone else and to take pride in doing so – and I was matched with someone quickly. Then they contacted me a third time. They said one of the previous recipients wanted another baby. So, I did it again.”
“And would I do it a fourth time? Probably”
As Rachel’s first egg collection had resulted in just eight eggs, the TFP Fertility team changed her medication to stimulate her ovaries more for her following collections. This meant that ahead of the second and third egg collections, she experienced some ovulation pains and heavy periods.
Despite this, Rachel says that she would consider a fourth egg collection. “If one of the couples who I have previously donated to want more eggs, I would definitely consider helping them again,” she said. “In fact, I’d love to meet the women I have donated to, even though I know I can’t.”
“People say to me, Evelyn could have loads of siblings out there. You’ve technically got another child out there. But I don’t see it like that. That child is not my child. He or she is part of another family. I was never worried about that side of it at all. The child could come to find me and that would be fine. I just like knowing I have helped someone,” said Rachel.
“I wish there were more egg donors out there - a lot of people don’t know about it. I think more people would do this if they knew about it.”
“And I never had any concerns about bringing a child into the world without a father. Children are raised without mothers or fathers all the time – there are so many different ways to be a loving family,” she said.
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