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.

If you would like your story to be featured in ‘Made in Aldridge’, complete the form and we will follow up your details.

Adam Manning

Imagine . . . you’re 25 years old, you’ve met the man you know you want to spend the rest of you life with, you’re both fit and healthy, you marry four years later and you continue to build your careers and buy a bigger home.  It’s a great plan!  And then you start trying for a baby.  And 12 months later the thin blue line has never appeared and so you visit you GP – but all the time you’re thinking, ‘oh, we’ll be alright, we’ll just have to ‘keep practising’!’.

And then following a referral to your hospital you get your test results and are told that although you’re only 35 years old you have almost no ovarian reserve and that you should go to Midland Fertility Services to see if the experts there can help you to have a baby.  Following other tests at MFS, including an AMH ovarian reserve test, your dreams of being a mum are reduced to just two options: consider adoption or try to conceive using another woman’s eggs.

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This was the choice facing Charlotte and Andrew Manning in 2006.  It was a scenario that they thought ‘only happened to other people’.  “My mum had no trouble conceiving me and my sister, although she was only in her early 20s,” said Charlotte.  “Although mum thinks that her mother may have started her menopause a bit earlier than usual, but I never expected it would be something that affected me.”

Between the results of the hospital tests and her MFS follow-up Charlotte read-up on premature ovarian failure (POF).  “I really didn’t want to consider the possibility of POF but the more I read about it, the more I wished I’d started trying to get pregnant at 29 rather than 35,” she said.

POF affects about 1 in every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 29 and about 1 in every 100 women between the ages of 30 and 39.  It differs from premature menopause because POF does not result in the permanent loss of ovarian function and in some cases it is actually reversible.  POF occurs when the ovaries stop working properly, usually due to loss or dysfunction of egg follicles.  Women who have premature menopause, on the other hand, will no longer have a period.  As a result, they are not able to conceive, as their ovaries do not ovulate, or produce any eggs.  However, the results of her tests at MFS confirmed that Charlotte’s infertility was in permanent and rapid decline and that she’d already begun her menopause.

Unable to think of a life without a child, Charlotte and Andrew considered both adoption and IVF treatment using donor eggs and decided that although eggs were in short supply, a donor-conceived baby would be genetically-related to Andrew, and Charlotte would carry the pregnancy and deliver the baby.  It was a long-shot but one they wanted to try, so they talked to Donna Rea-Gardner, the MFS egg and embryo donation co-ordinator, who detailed the rigorous screening process for recipients and donors.  She also confirmed that matching a potential recipient to an egg donor could take up to two years, as in addition to the shortage of donor eggs, Charlotte tested negative for the cytomegalovirus (CMV) and so needed to wait for a CMV- donor.

While coming to terms with this, a few months later, Charlotte received the bitter-sweet news that her sister was pregnant.  While feeling genuine delight for her sister, it made her own situation feel even more like a slap in the face.  “I felt like a total let down; that not having a baby was all my fault and that I didn’t ‘fit’ or that I wasn’t a ‘normal’ woman,” reflected Charlotte.  “And while Andrew was amazing and stayed really supportive, I knew I needed some help to sort out how I felt.”

Charlotte talked about these feelings at her next appointment at MFS and the nurse suggested she speak to one of the MFS independent counsellors to help her deal with what she had been through and with the treatment she and Andrew were planning.

A few months later Linda Tanner, the MFS NHS contracts manager contacted Charlotte and Andrew to confirm that Walsall PCT would fund up to two cycles of treatment using donor eggs.  After hearing no news of a donor for almost 18 months, Donna Rea-Gardner then called with the news of a matched egg sharer.

“The timing was perfect because Andrew and I were starting to contact clinics in Spain that offered donor egg treatment without a long waiting list,” recalled Charlotte.  “We were prepared to pay for it ourselves and to go to the lengths of travelling to another country because, until we could start treatment, we felt like a big part of our lives was on hold.

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“But I still didn’t get really excited when Donna called to say our treatment could soon start.  I think I have a self-preservation mode that kicks in and whispers ‘what will be, will be’, so I don’t get too hopeful and ignore the reality of any chance of success.”

Donna confirmed some of the non-identifying details of the egg sharer who had agreed to donate half her eggs to another woman in return for reduced cost IVF treatment.  “Her skin and hair colour and build are similar to mine and she’d had a similar education as Andrew and me, as we’d previously discussed with Donna,” said Charlotte.  “We were also given a letter she had written and her personality seems a lot like mine – it’s quite uncanny!”

Around the same time as the egg sharer started her stimulation injections, Charlotte began HRT drugs to help her uterus lining develop, and then progesterone to prepare her uterus to receive the embryos.  A week before the egg collection, Charlotte and Andrew returned to MFS for Andrew to provide the sperm sample which would be prepared by the embryologist and then frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196°C until the day of the egg collection.  That morning the sperm sample was removed from storage and thawed ready to mix with the suitable eggs, later that day.

“I was delighted when our MFS nurse told us we’d been allocated 16 eggs and the next day when they said that these had fertilised into eight embryos, ” said Charlotte.

Two days later Charlotte and Andrew retuned to MFS for the embryo transfer.  Charlotte recalls she was a little nervous, as a moment they’d been hoping for so long was finally here.

The next two weeks went very slowly, with Charlotte’s self-preservation mode preventing her from even hoping that she might be pregnant.  On the fourteenth day she took the pregnancy test and then returned to bed, not daring to look at the result and expecting the same ‘negative’ white box that she’d seen so many times before over the years.  Instead Andrew checked the stick and she was totally amazed when he said: “There’s a line, there’s a blue line!”

In preparation for getting pregnant, Charlotte had made a few life-style changes, eating only organic food, using non-perfumed deodorant and trying to maintain general ‘healthy living’.  “Once we’d had the first scan which confirmed a single healthy heartbeat, I was more worried than ever that we might lose the baby.  It was the closest we’d ever been to having a baby, so I wanted to do every thing I could do help this pregnancy go all the way!

“From the moment I saw the heartbeat I wanted to do everything I could to ensure MY baby would be OK.  I always thought of him as mine and it was never an issue that he was conceived from a donor egg.  He was wanted so very, very much, all that was important was that he was conceived with as much love, and possibly more, as any naturally conceived and much-wanted baby.”

Charlotte’s pregnancy progressed well until about 24 weeks, when she got repeated dizzy spells and palpitations. Her condition was diagnosed as tachycardia, or an abnormally fast heartbeat, possibly caused by the increase blood circulation of her pregnancy and she was advised to finish work early to reduce any risk to both herself and the baby.

Then at 31 weeks Charlotte’s waters broke and she was admitted to Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield where Adam was born two days later by emergency Caesarean section, weighing 4lbs 6oz.

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After spending a few weeks in the neo-natal unit, Adam came home and, as so often happens with donor-conceived babies, family and friends see resemblances to both his dad – of whom he’s almost a ‘mirror-image’ – and to Charlotte!

“People say how much he looks like me and my sister’s son, which makes me smile.  There’s more to being part of a family than just genetics!” said Charlotte.

“We plan to tell Adam about how he was conceived and that it was the gift of an amazingly generous women that brought him into our lives,” explained Charlotte.  “We’ve got a book from the Donor Conception Network which suggests that donor conceived children shouldn’t be able to recall the exact moment they were told, but should just always be aware of the circumstances of their conception and birth, so it’s never a shock to them.  But it’s not all about the science, we’ll emphasise the love that was, and will always be, an equally important part of him being our son.”

“I know I won’t know the identity of the donor unless Adam son chooses to find out when he’s 18, but I know enough about her to feel a connection with her and also to truly appreciate what a fantastic gift she gave me,” said Charlotte.

“When I was planning treatment a friend asked how I would feel about bonding with ‘another woman’s baby’, but those negative feelings just didn’t happen.  All the love you have goes to that baby growing inside you and who you give birth to.

“Egg donation is the most amazing gift any woman can give another – Adam is just the best thing ever!”

All names have been changed to protect the identity of the donor-conceived child.

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