Made in Aldridge

Made in Aldridge’ is a regular e-news feature which tells the story of a woman’s or couple’s experience at MFS and the impact of the result on their lives.

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Ellie May and Richard Mark Gummerson

Ellie May Gummerson, was delivered by Caesarean section just two minutes before her brother Richard, on 3 August 2009.  Already she is remarkable in many ways – she is the first Gummerson girl for more than 80 years, and being the older of the twins she is also the 4,500th baby born after treatment at MFS.

When MFS contacted her parents Libby and Mark Gummerson with the news that Ellie was an MFS ‘milestone baby’, not only were they delighted, but it simply confirmed what they already knew – that Ellie, like Richard as ‘MFS Baby 4,501’, is a very special baby!

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Libby and Mark Gummerson with Ellie and Richard aged 19 weeks

Libby and Mark, from Hereford, have been together since 2000 and married on 3 August 2003.  They spent the next few years busy building their careers as accountants, including for Libby, working towards her professional qualifications.  During this time they also decided to have a baby – their careers were going well, they were young (Libby was 29 and Mark was 35), they had their own home and were ready for the next stage of their life together.  There was nothing to suggest that they would have problems conceiving.

But three years later ‘they’ were still not pregnant.  “During that time we didn’t think that we’d got any particular problem; just that we’d not been lucky so far and that it would happen eventually,” said Libby.  “Other people we knew seemed to get pregnant so easily and we didn’t want trying for a baby to become something we had to work hard at, like our careers.

“When we were first married our dog had been our child substitute but over the years when we were trying to get pregnant I started to feel sad at parties of young nieces and nephews and felt alienated when their mums were talking ‘mums’ talk’.  I didn’t resent it; I just wished I could be a part of it.”

Eventually the couple visited their GP and were referred almost immediately to Mr Robert Subak-Sharpe a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist at Hereford Hospitals NHS Trust.  In addition to the usual tests to measure Libby’s hormones to check for ovulation, she also had a laparoscopy and a ‘tube-dye’ test to check for any physical problems with her ovaries, Fallopian tubes and uterus.  Mark also provided a sample for a semen analysis.

“The results were encouraging, but also frustrating,” explained Libby.  “Other than a small amount of endometriosis, nothing major was wrong with me that could stop me getting pregnant and Mark’s sperm was all OK.  So we still didn’t know the reason why I wasn’t pregnant.”

“People who conceive naturally really don’t know how lucky they are or how difficult it is for couples who can’t get pregnant without intervention,” said Mark.  “While you try and think ‘oh we’ll be alright, it’ll happen for us’ the longer time goes on and the more tests you have, and more and more people who are complete strangers get involved and everything is tested and scanned over and over again, until trying to have a baby takes over your whole life – but you have to keep on with it because you want that baby so much.”

Mr Subak-Sharpe recommended they try IVF and advised them that they would probably be eligible for funding from NHS Herefordshire for treatment at MFS.

NHS Herefordshire, the PCT for the county has funded fertility treatment at MFS since 1999 and in the first 10 years of the partnership with the clinic, has paid for treatment for more than 200 of the county’s couples, resulting in the birth of 122 babies.

MFS Babies 4,500 and 4,501, their mummy and daddy, Cathie Hatherall from NHS Herefordshire and Mr Subak-Sharpe, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Herefordshire NHS Hospitals Trust
MFS Babies 4,500 and 4,501, their mummy and daddy, Cathie Hatherall from NHS Herefordshire and Mr Subak-Sharpe, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Herefordshire NHS Hospitals Trust

“I was really quite excited when the funding was confirmed and we had our first appointment at MFS,” said Libby.  “We were actually doing something about getting pregnant, which was positive; although I’m such a worrier I kept thinking that I wouldn’t produce enough eggs.”

In November 2008 Libby started the daily injections of buserelin, which would down regulate her normal monthly cycle before she began the follicle stimulating gonadotrophins which would develop and mature more eggs than she would normally produce in a month.  Every day over Christmas she did the two daily injections and was scanned regularly over the holiday period to check the development of the egg-containing follicles on her ovaries.

“We got a bit worried when one of the scans showed fewer follicles than expected, but the nurse changed the drugs slightly and when I had my egg collection on New Year’s Eve I’d managed to produce eight eggs – which successfully fertilised with Mark’s sperm to become six embryos.

Two days later Libby and Mark returned to MFS for the transfer of two of the embryos into Libby’s uterus.  Three of the remaining embryos were also of good enough quality to freeze in liquid nitrogen at -196°C, where they will remain until they are transferred or until the storage period ends.

Over the Christmas holidays I was talking to Mark’s mum about a family wedding in July and saying that I really hoped that I wouldn’t be able to wear a lovely dress I’d got, because I hoped that I’d be too pregnant by then to fit into it,” remembered Libby.  “It’s not that I was so bothered about clothes – it’s just that we really didn’t want another Christmas without a baby.”

Two weeks after the embryo transfer, Libby got up at 4.00am to do the pregnancy test.  “I was so excited – nervous but excited – and couldn’t sleep or lie in bed just thinking about it,” explained Libby.  “We were over the moon when the line turned blue and phoned both our mums at the crack of dawn to tell them!”

Two weeks later MFS fertility nurse specialist Tracey Lewis scanned Libby and confirmed twins.  “I’ve never known Mark so quiet,” said Libby.  “He’s an identical twin and the thought of having twins of our own was just amazing!”

But the following week their delight turned to panic when Libby began to bleed and they both worried she was miscarrying.  MFS advised her to stop taking the low-dose aspirin and their eight week scan appointment was brought forward to check what was happening.

“We couldn’t believe it when we saw the two heartbeats still flickering on the screen – it was an amazing sight which we dreaded not seeing again,” said Mark.

Libby began her maternity leave on 3 August 2009, seven weeks before the babies’ due date.  It was also the couple’s seventh wedding anniversary and Mark surprised Libby by coming home early that afternoon with a bouquet of flowers.  However Libby surprised them both when her waters broke and they realised she was going into labour!

“I was upset and in a panic because it was too early and I worried that the babies weren’t ready to be born yet” said Libby.  “One of them was breach and I was in so much pain that the hospital advised I had an emergency Caesarean section.  The epidural was such a relief and Mark watched as Ellie was born at 11.54pm, followed by Richard at 11.56pm, weighing 3lbs 6oz and 4lbs 8oz, respectively.  What an anniversary present!”

“We couldn’t believe Ellie was a girl as she is the first in my family for four generations!” said Mark.

Libby left the hospital five days later though Ellie and Richard stayed in the special care baby unit for a total of four weeks.  “The SCBU unit was outstanding,” said Libby.  “The staff gave the babies the very best start they could have had and helped us get ready for having them at home, by letting us stay in our own family room for a few nights before they were discharged.”

Since then Ellie and Richard have continued to thrive and of course they are the very centre of Libby and Mark’s life.

On 15 December Libby and Mark returned to Hereford County Hospital to see Mr Subak-Sharpe, Cathie Hatherall from NHS Herefordshire and Jill Anthony-Ackery from MFS.

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Jill Anthony-Ackery from MFS is introduced to the unit's latest milestone babies
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Ellie and Richard are re-united with one of the SCBU team at Hereford County Hospital

“We would never have had Ellie and Richard if it wasn’t for the organisations they all work for,” said Mark.  “It was lovely to introduce them to the twins and to see some of the team from the special care baby unit who cared for Ellie and Richard for their first four weeks.”

“The arrival of any new baby is always to be celebrated and births following assisted conception are particularly special occasions for the couples, their families and also for the fertility clinic,” said Jill Anthony-Ackery.  “In the last 12 months almost 300 MFS babies were born after treatment at MFS, and the birth of our ‘milestone babies’, Ellie and Richard, is a lovely reminder of the impact of the continuing partnership between MFS, NHS Herefordshire and the obs and gynae team at Hereford Hospitals NHS Trust, on the lives of many of the county’s couples who want to have a baby.”

“Having Ellie and Richard has changed our priorities,” explained Libby.  “Mark has changed his job and while he still works really hard he’s not working anything like the really long hours he used to.

“And Christmas takes on a different perspective too.  It was lovely including their names when I wrote the cards and the whole holiday will be about Ellie and Richard.  We’d do anything for them, they’re our life.

“My mum refers to them as ‘our little miracles’ and I remember wondering last Christmas if we’d ever even have just one baby, and now this Christmas we’re mummy and daddy to a son and a daughter – it’s perfect.”

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