'Our dream baby after a decade shows you should never give up hope'
A Lancashire couple are celebrating Christmas with their dream baby after a decade of trying to start a family.Carley Donlan tells AASMA DAY about their joy after failed attempts at fertility treatment and the heartache of losing a baby and why it is vital to never give up hope
EVER since she was a little girl, Carley Donlan loved babies and her maternal streak was evident from a young age.
Smiling as she remembers, Carley says: “I was eight when my youngest brother was born and I loved looking after him and mothering him and was like a second mum to him.”
Carley, 31, who lives in Much Hoole, near Preston, always knew she wanted to be a mum and could not wait to start a family with husband Tony who she has now been with for 12 years.
However, after a few years of trying, the couple decided to see a doctor for advice.
Carley, who is a hairdresser with her own salon, explains: “We had been trying for a baby for about five years but without any pressure. However, it did not happen.
“So we went to the doctor to see if there was anything wrong.”
Carley and Tony, 47, who is a swimming pool engineer, were told by doctors they had unexplained infertility as they could not find a specific reason why they were struggling to achieve a pregnancy.
They were tried with fertility drugs but these did not work, so they were referred to Manchester for intrauterine insemination (IUI), a form of assisted conception where selected, washed sperm is put into the uterus at the time of ovulation.
The couple had four attempts with IUI on the NHS. They were then referred for IVF and had their first round in 2013 at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester but it didn’t work.
Carley and Tony had their second attempt at IVF the following year in 2014 and were thrilled when Carley became pregnant as a result of this.
Carley remembers: “We were both so happy. We thought it was finally happening for us.”
However, the couple’s joy turned to heartache when Carley suffered a miscarriage at 19 weeks.
Carley recalls: “We were so excited when I was pregnant and had an early scan at seven weeks, which confirmed we were having a baby.
“But I had complications and my waters broke and we lost the baby at 19 weeks which was devastating.
“I had to give birth to him and he was a little boy and we called him Bertie.”
Carley and Tony were heartbroken at losing their baby and Carley admits it was a very difficult time.
She says: “Everyone around us seemed to be having babies except for us and it was hard to understand why it wasn’t happening for us.
“When we lost Bertie to a late miscarriage, it was horrendous. Two of my best friends were pregnant at the same time.
“I was there at the birth of one of my best friends as I wanted to be there for her, and I actually cut the baby’s cord as her husband was too squeamish.
“I was glad to be there for her and it was an emotional experience.”
Even though Carley was devastated at losing her baby, she says the fact she had actually been pregnant gave her hope.
However after four attempts at IUI and two IVF cycles on the NHS, they had used up all their chances using NHS treatment and went privately to CARE Fertility in Manchester.
After Carley had lost her baby, investigations by the NHS had revealed she had antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), also known as Hughes syndrome.
It is a disorder of the immune system that causes an increased risk of blood clots. Pregnant women with the condition have an increased risk of having a miscarriage.
Carley explains: “CARE told us they would do IVF but they also put me on a low dose of steroids and blood thinning injections.”
The couple had their IVF treatment at CARE Manchester in November 2015 and were delighted when they found out in early December that Carley was pregnant. Laughing, Carley remembers: “Tony was actually working away from home when I did the test and I had to Facetime him the results!
“We were so happy, but after what had happened before, we were also a bit apprehensive.”
Carley was monitored carefully throughout her pregnancy and kept on the steroids and blood thinning injections. She was also scanned every three weeks from 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Because of what had happened with Bertie, Carley was induced a week early. However, her baby’s heart rate was dropping low so Carley had to have an emergency Caesarean Section.
Baby Nelly Iris Donlan was born healthy and well on August 6, weighing 6lb 6oz. She is now 19 weeks-old and has brought her parents so much joy and they have loved spending their first Christmas together as a family.
Carley says: “Tony has a 23-year-old daughter too, but Nelly is our first baby together and we are delighted.
“Nelly is quite a good sleeper at night, but is getting more alert during the day and is full of character and knows what she wants.
“It is wonderful to finally get your dream baby. It has taken us 10 years to get to this point but Nelly was definitely worth the wait.
“I hope our story gives hope to other people who are struggling to have a baby. If it can happen for us after all this time and 10 years of trying and treatment, it shows there is hope.
“You have to try and stay positive, even though it can be hard at times as you go through so many emotions.
“I have a few friends who are about to start IVF treatment and I really hope it happens for them too.
“Now we have Nelly, it feels like all our dreams have come true.”
Mark Sedler, consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist at CARE Manchester, says: “I am delighted Carley-Anne and Anthony achieved a pregnancy.
“Nelly Iris was a long-awaited baby, making this festive season particularly special.
n To find out more about CARE Fertility and open days and treatments, visit: www.carefertility.com