A shortage in egg donors means some couples struggling with fertility issues face agonising waits.
Today, on the first day of our series ‘Child of our dreams’, Aasma Day talks to Claire and Neil Martin who are desperate for an egg donor so they can have the hope of a child together.
Doctors told us that there was next to no chance of us conceiving naturallyClaire Martin
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes little baby in a baby carriage.”
It may just be a childhood playground song, but for many couples, this is the natural order they assume their lives will take when they find their perfect partner.
Claire and Neil Martin, of Crawford Avenue, Leyland, both knew they wanted children and thought that it would just happen when they felt the time was right.
The thought that it might be a struggle did not really occur to them as like many, they assumed it would be the most natural thing in the world.
The couple, who have been together for 10 years and married for six, both work for a travel company in Euxton, near Chorley where Claire, 36, works in customer services and Neil works on the transport side.
Claire explains: “Not being able to have children is not something you think about - until it affects you.
“Having children is something we both knew we wanted but first we wanted to get a house together and get settled.
“Once we got married, we thought having a baby was the natural next stage.”
After a year of trying for a baby, Claire and Neil began to suspect something wasn’t right and went to the doctors.
After undergoing tests and investigations, specialists told the devastated couple there was a problem with Claire’s eggs and their only chance of having a baby together was through IVF using donor eggs.
Claire explains: “Normally, a woman’s body produces the better quality eggs and releases them every month.
“But my body was not doing that. It was just putting any eggs out and sometimes, they didn’t think there were any eggs coming out at all.
“Doctors told us that there was next to no chance of us conceiving naturally.
“When all you’ve ever wanted is to have children, to be given that news is heartbreaking.”
Claire says from as far back as she can remember, she always knew she wanted to be a mum some day.
And Neil, who is an only child, grew up surrounded by cousins so family was always important to him.
Neil, 37, says: “I am an only child but my mum had seven brothers and sisters and my father was one of four, so I have got lots of cousins.
“Family is very important to myself and Claire and we both desperately want children if we can.
“When you hear tales of women who have become pregnant by accident or without really trying, it can be very difficult.
“It is hard when you want something so much when for other people it is a natural thing that they have not really planned or thought about.”
Claire says: “My mum has a twin brother and an older set of twins and an older sister so is one of five children.
“From being young, I have been with all my cousins and we are a close family with lots of aunties, uncles and cousins.
“I always took the motherly role and did babysitting and always knew that’s what I wanted for the future.
“I wanted to do what my mum has done for us and have that for my own children.”
Claire and Neil were referred to the Hewitt Fertility Centre at Liverpool Women’s Hospital where they had tests and counselling.
Claire’s sister, who has a daughter and a son, offered to be an egg donor for her sister and the IVF cycle took place in September last year.
Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful.
Claire explains: “We went all the way through the IVF cycle and they collected eggs, fertilised them and then implanted them - but it just didn’t work.
“It was a very difficult time as you go through all that convinced it will work and then you are left devastated.
“Doctors can’t pinpoint exactly why the IVF didn’t work but say the eggs just weren’t as good quality as they needed.
“The hospital are now keen for us to have IVF using a donor from outside as they think it will stand a better chance of working.
“However, at the moment at the centre, there is a four year wait for donor eggs on the NHS.”
The clinic recommend couples cut down their waiting time by advertising for an anonymous donor of their own if they feel this is the best route for them.
Neil says: “We have looked at private clinics and having the treatment privately and providing there is no physical barrier, if you can pay, you can have treatment using donor eggs.
“But the cost is thousands. You can’t put a price on having a family and if there was a guarantee of success, we would find a way.
“However, there is no guarantee.”
Claire admits she sometimes feels responsible and although it is her “fault” although Neil constantly reassures her that they are both in it together.
Claire explains: “When there is something wrong with your eggs, there is nothing doctors can do to fix that, so you feel like it is your fault the IVF is not working.
“I know there is nothing I could have changed, but it is still heartbreaking.
“When I see other people with babies and children, as much as I am over the moon for them and happy for them, there is also a part of me that wishes it was my baby.
“I have a niece and nephew and love being an aunty. But I still long to have my own children.
“Our family network have been very supportive through all this and their help has been invaluable.
“The hardest part is the waiting. We are just stuck in limbo waiting for donor eggs.
“We are desperate to have a child together and know we need a miracle.”
The couple get two rounds of IVF on the NHS and as they have already had one, they know this is their last chance.
They are now appealing for women to consider becoming an egg donor to help them - or other couples facing the same plight.
Claire says: “From a selfish point of view, we want donor eggs so we can have a baby.
“But we know what other people are going through so if it does not work out for us and a donor can help others in the same position, that would be great too.”
Neil says: “We want to raise awareness of the need for couples like us who long to be parents but can’t have children without an egg donor.
“We moved to the house we are living in last year and we bought it with starting a family in mind as it is in a nice area with great schools nearby.
“Everything we have worked towards is having a family of our own.
“We are now down to our final shot and just hope we can find someone willing to help us achieve our dream of a baby.”
If you a woman aged between 21 and 35 and preferably have already had children and would like to receive more information regarding egg donation, call the Ovum Donation Co- ordinator at Liverpool Women’s Hospital on 0151 702 4212.
If you want to help Claire and Neil by being a potential egg donor, quote reference: 590R