I knew from a very young age I wanted to be a mother. I was a very headstrong child. Even in my teenage years, whilst I knew I wanted to be a woman with a career, my priority was always being a Mum. I wanted 6 children. And while my husband soon insisted that we drew the line at 4, a big family was something I had longed for. Even as a child, I wished my sister and I had a brother to add a third to the sibling duo.
After three and a half years of trying to have a baby, I heard the words nobody trying to conceive wants to hear, "I'm sorry... you won't be able to get pregnant without IVF." By this point, we had already endured years of disappointment. The same heartbreaking negative pregnancy test every month, the sinking feeling when I saw yet another smear of red blood on the crisp white toilet paper. It made me cry more tears than I ever thought possible. I convinced myself it was all part of a plan - maybe I was meant to be married or be more financially secure... The truth happened to be far from some cosmic plan. As it turns out, I not only had a diagnosis of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) but also two fully blocked fallopian tubes that rendered me medically infertile. I will never forget the moment I heard the news that shook and changed my world. I was sitting in the hospital bed, sipping English Breakfast tea and eating a dry custard cream. I remember the feeling and taste of warm, salty tears running down my face like an overflowing river - water rushing towards the delta. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I understood the mountain I had to climb to become a parent.
At the time, IVF was not covered by the NHS where I live in Cambridgeshire. We were on our own.
My immediate reaction was to just throw myself into IVF. I chose a clinic within a matter of days and sent numerous emails trying to arrange consultations. We even looked at egg sharing to keep the costs down. In hindsight, I was simply trying to cope with the situation at hand when in fact, I needed to grieve. Grief is one of the most unspoken parts of infertility. You go through the motions of trying to make sense of how something you have yearned for so deeply has been pulled from beneath your feet. Something so many people attain so easily and freely.
It wasn't long before everything came crashing down. I can't describe the following six months as anything other than trying to walk through a heavy cloud of thick, black, viscous smoke with granite blocks tied to my feet. I felt severely depressed- like I couldn't escape my fate. I couldn't breathe without feeling the weight in my lungs. I couldn't speak without hearing the hopelessness in my voice. Infertility was everywhere I looked. I was reminded of my affliction by the most ordinary of scenes - the cry of a baby in a supermarket, a baby seat in a parked car, the spare bedroom I had always intended to be a nursery... It was the laparoscopy scars on my stomach, my husband in every touch, every penny I spent knowing that to grow our family we needed thousands of pounds we did not have.
I had been awake 30 minutes and in those 30 minutes my world had been turned upside down, and I had been told I was infertile. I had two blocked fallopian tubes, which I would go on to have removed, and I would never have a child without specialist fertility treatment.
I had my tubes removed 6 months post-diagnosis and only then, in hindsight, was I really ready to start exploring the option of IVF treatments.
I had always read in the news about how expensive IVF could be. It was common and accepted to hear figures around £3,500. However, I was naïve and foolish to have believed it. When we actually started adding it up we were looking at totals of between £5,000 - £12,000 per cycle! I had no idea how we would be able to afford that. Without our family helping, we probably couldn't have.
Now, with fresh cycles under our belt, preparing for a third IVF treatment and still without that positive test, we have spent more money on IVF treatment than I dare ring up a total for. We are now close to the £15,000 mark. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that at one point, we worked 5 jobs between us to fund it. There have been times where we've considered letting go due to our financial situation. Perhaps the only thing that keeps us going is the hope that one day, we will look at those big bright eyes staring up at us and understand that the love we feel was worth every injection, every sleepless night, and every last bit of heartbreak.
I wish something like Gaia existed when I first started my IVF journey in 2019. There are no words to explain how much of a relief it would have been to know that I could have funded our cycles in a much more affordable way. Having hindsight knowledge that we wouldn't have had to pay more than an initial fee is frustrating. Back when we first started, we did look at other funding options. We found all of them required hefty upfront payments. The result of this is that we often pay far more than we need to if our treatment is successful. We find this hard to accept.
I was concerned about clinic refund programs, as I feared that the safety could be compromised. There wasn't a single one that felt right for us as a couple. The Gaia plans, in my view, avoid all that and are a big blessing for IVF.
We are so fortunate to have IVF funding via the NHS reinstated in Cambridgeshire. We currently have a funded shot at IVF. Most things in IVF are uncertain, in fact, infertility is plagued with nothing but uncertainty. However, our one certainty is that if this cycle ends up not being third time lucky after all, Gaia will be the first people we call.