'He's our little miracle:' Thornton parents overjoyed to bring baby home after gruelling IVF journey
A baby is the most precious gift anyone could receive, perhaps even more so for parents who were unable to conceive naturally.
When Crystal King, 34, and Tim Holloway, 35, met in 2012, neither of them anticipated the road to starting a family would be such a bumpy one.
The couple, who live on Devonshire Avenue in Thornton with Crystal's daughter Ella, nine, did not expect to be faced with the possibility of being unable to have a child together.
In 2015, they decided they wanted to add a baby to their family. But after a year of trying to conceive, Crystal still had not fallen pregnant.
After a visit to their doctor, it was agreed they should see a fertility specialist - measures only taken after 12 months of unsuccessful conception attempts at the young age of 33.
It soon transpired that Crystal, who had already experienced a healthy pregnancy with daughter Ella, was healthy enough to carry a baby - but partner Tim had low sperm motility and a low sperm count.
This meant that very few sperm were available to fertilise an egg, and they weren't moving. The couple learned it would not be possible for them to conceive a baby naturally.
Tim, who works at the Bay Horse pub in Thornton, explained how he felt when he learned their hope for a baby would not be so easily achieved.
"We needed help, so we asked for it, there's no shame in that," he said.
"It's called male factor infertility. It might be an ego thing with some men, but it wasn't for me.
"But I did feel like I couldn't give her what she wanted."
The couple were referred to St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where they qualified for two rounds of IVF treatment on the NHS.
Sadly, the first round produced no viable eggs, and the second ended in miscarriage.
Crystal, a GP surgery worker at North Shore surgery in Moor Park, Bispham, said the failed attempts took a deep toll on the family.
"I looked at Ella all the time and thought to myself, I'm not done, I know I'm not, I want her to have a sibling, I want another child," she said.
"I wanted to Tim to have a child of his own. We're both only children, we don't have siblings and we didn't want that for her.
"After a failed attempt and a miscarriage, we remortgaged our house and went private. I did so much research, all I could think about was IVF, and it's all I spoke about.
"When you want something so badly, you become a bit obsessed with it."
Crystal and Tim decided to go to ABC IVF, a special clinic in Wilmslow, Cheshire, offering fertility treatments, which cost the couple just over £4,000.
The IVF journey took an emotional and physical toll on Crystal, who produced too many eggs, resulting in the need to have some frozen.
The treatment caused a lot of pain, and after producing 18 eggs instead of a woman's usual one per month, her body became swollen and sore.
Tim and Crystal underwent intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which required medics at the clinic to inject Tim's sperm - which did not move - into Crystal's eggs in petri dishes.
"Waiting for the phone call to tell us whether any of the eggs had fertilised was torture, I was shaking when I got that call," Crystal continued.
"I couldn't believe it when they said some of them had. But in the backs of our minds we knew the risks, and I was expecting something to go wrong."
In a bid to reduce the risk of a multiple pregnancy, Crystal decided to use just one of the fertilised eggs.
It was an agonising two-week wait before taking a pregnancy test to see if the IVF had been successful.
Then finally, on the day of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's first national coronavirus lockdown announcement in March, the couple's dream was on its way to reality.
"The test was positive, and we were so happy, but we didn't tell anyone because a positive pregnancy test doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a baby, we knew that," Crystal continued.
"I went for a viability scan at seven weeks and saw the baby's heartbeat, and I just cried. To have tried for that moment for six years, it was everything.
"I even had all the usual pregnancy symptoms, which I thought was just my mind playing tricks on me.
"But he's here now, and he's our little miracle, and we went through so much to have him here."
Baby Theodore "Theo" Holloway was born a week early, on November 25 at 8.29am. He weighed 10lbs, and was born via emergency caesarian.
Theo was born by c-section after becoming distressed during labour, which saw his heart rate plummet posing a risk to both his and Crystal's lives.
The new parents said they felt "incredibly lucky" baby Theo was born safely, and praised medics at Blackpool Vic for looking after him and Crystal so well.
Crystal added: "They made sure I had a Covid test, they even stuck swabs up my nose while I was having a contraction, that was probably the worst pain of all.
"Tim had to wear a mask the whole time he was with us, and they were very strict about making sure everyone had them on."
The couple wanted to reassure anyone else struggling with fertility issues that there were options, and that they were not alone.
"One thing I'd say is, don't think you can just gamble with your fertility," Crystal said.
"If Tim and I had waited until everything was perfect, if I hadn't had Ella and we were more bothered about getting everything else sorted first, we may never have become parents.
"There is a bit of ignorance when it comes to fertility - people asking you when you're going to have a baby, people voicing that they fell pregnant easily, relatives asking all the time when you're going to start a family.
"But there are options for anybody struggling. If you really want something, you just have to go for it."
According to UK charity Fertility Network UK, infertility affects one in seven couples, with a shocking 90 per cent of those couples reporting feeling depressed due to their issues.
The charity was also concerned that too few people understood what infertility meant, or which factors, including lifestyle, diet and age, could affect it.
A spokesman for Fertility Network UK said: "IVF should be considered by couples who have only a low chance of conceiving otherwise.
"Couples with severe male factor infertility, severe endometriosis and tubal disease that affect both fallopian tubes should consider IVF at a relatively early stage.
"Although IVF was originally devised for women with tubal problems, in combination with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), it is a very effective method to treat male factor infertility too.
"Female age is the most important factor affecting fertility. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and the number of eggs available decreases each day from birth onwards.
"In young women the decline is fairly gradual (only a few eggs are ‘lost’ each day), but as women approach their mid to late 30s, the decrease gets much steeper (many more eggs are ‘lost’ each day).
"In addition to this decrease in the number of eggs available, the quality of the eggs also declines as women get older.
"Going through fertility treatment or the monthly cycle of hope and disappointment can propel you into a situation where you are thinking back into the past or forward into the future and never spending any time thinking about the present.
"If you would like to talk to someone, you can get support from our support line on 0121 323 5025."
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