When Sobia and Tokeer set out on their journey to be parents, very few of their Pakistani friends and neighbours knew what could be achieved with IVF.
Despite setbacks, the family's determination never wavered, and babies Abdul and Siam Ayyaz arrived 11 years apart, yet from the same egg collection.
Sobia had always wanted children and as soon as they were married, she and husband Tokeer started trying for a family.
“But having a baby was taking such a long, long time,” says Sobia.
“I work in a maternity hospital, and it is so rewarding – but all the time I was feeling that there was something missing from my life.”
Tests revealed that Sobia had both PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and endometriosis, both conditions which make the chances of natural pregnancy more challenging.
PCOS and endometriosis are common fertility conditions that affect ovulation, which is when eggs are released during the monthly cycle. Endometriosis can show up on a pelvic ultrasound, whereas PCOS is diagnosed by symptoms and blood tests.
Despite laparoscopies to clear the endometrial tissue and medication to stimulate ovulation, Sobia still didn’t conceive.
Then, sadly, an initial round of IVF at a local clinic near where Sobia and Tokeer lived ended in a miscarriage at seven weeks.
“I felt depressed. I was angry. I asked, why me? But I still had faith.
I decided to leave myself alone for three or four years and let myself recover,” says Sobia.
When she was ready to try again, Sobia discussed her situation with an NHS gynaecologist and this time she was referred to TFP Oxford Fertility.
Sobia remembers how welcoming the staff were. “All the staff from reception to the clinical team were helpful, polite and friendly.
They made me feel special,” she says.
The TFP Fertility clinicians noted that during her first round of IVF, Sobia’s ovaries may have been over-stimulated.
They decided to reduce her medication, which resulted in a smaller collection of better quality eggs. Eight of these became embryos.
On transfer day, Sobia was nervous, but she knew she would go through anything to have her baby.
“I’m very determined. I’m ready to explore anything and I will cope with anything – so I coped with this, and it wasn’t painful at all.
“The only discomfort came from having such a full bladder, which is needed for the procedure,” she remembers.
The transfer worked. After a nervous two weeks of waiting, Sobia took a pregnancy test, and it was positive.
“One minute I wasn’t pregnant and then, the next, I was. I took my test on the day of our Islamic festival of Eid. I got a gift from God that day.”
Baby Abdul arrived after a successful pregnancy.
Sobia knew that she and Tokeer would want another child, so they had two embryos cryopreserved (frozen) at the TFP clinic during their first IVF round.
The problem was that no more NHS funding was available.
“I tried to save every year, but it was so hard,” says Sobia. “Ten years passed and we got a letter reminding us that we were coming to the end of the embryo storage contract.
That’s when we decided we had try for another baby with IVF.”
“I told my two sisters, my best friend and my manager. I didn't think it was a good idea to tell the whole family and friends in case it wouldn't work out. It was very difficult to keep all of this a secret,” she recalls.
“And, of course, we did tell our little boy, Abdul.”
A frozen embryo transfer is where a healthy embryo from a previous IVF cycle is carefully thawed before being put into the womb. Recently, the law changed to allow people to freeze their embryos for up to 55 years, instead of only 10 years.
Eleven years after the egg collection, the clinical team transferred the remaining two frozen embryos into Sobia’s uterus.
Then it was time for the pregnancy test. “I was pregnant. Abdul was very excited to learn that we were going to have a baby in our house,” says Sobia.
Little Siam Ayyaz was born ‘nice and fine’.
“When I look at my boys, I feel so happy and grateful. It took so long to have my family but despite everything I went through, here I am.”
At the time of her first IVF treatment, very few people in Sobia’s Pakistani community had heard of IVF.
However, these days there is much more awareness.
“When I tell people my story, they are amazed to hear how IVF works,” she says.
We’re here if you’re having difficulty getting pregnant and want to talk to someone about your fertility treatment options.