Esther’s Story

I was single and approaching my 40th birthday. I’d been thinking since my last disastrous relationship that I should be prioritising becoming a Mum and it wasn’t until a friend suggested single mother by choice ivf that I started looking into my options. 

Fast forward to just after the first covid lockdown and my first ivf appointment was booked in. It was all coincidental timing because a few months before that I met the man of my dreams but because of covid lockdowns we hadn’t got things off the ground until the same week as my appointment. 

At my appointment the consultant said to stop wasting time and start trying with my lovely new boyfriend. We had talked about the desire to start a family on our first date so though it was rapid it didn’t seem at all weird. 

Ten months after we met and still not pregnant Stuart had symptoms of headaches and confusion so after trying to get him a GP appointment and failing I took him to A&E. It was that night we found out that he had a Glioblastoma brain tumour. We were terrified. But even more determined to make our dreams of a family together come true. Two days later we got engaged. 5 days after that we got married under special licence during the UKs 2nd lockdown with 4 family witnesses.

Before Stu’s treatment started he gave sperm samples to be stored and after his first 6 weeks of treatment we did our first round of ivf. 

If I’m honest we didn’t really know what to expect, we’d spent so much time researching brain tumours that I hadn’t had a chance to research ivf/supplements/ maximising our chances. I also thought come on universe you’ve got to give us a break here. 

The first round we got so many eggs that even at my age I thought it was really going to work. They transferred an embryo and we kept everything crossed. But when we heard our other embryos hasn’t made it to blastocysts and couldn’t be frozen I was devastated. And then even more devastated with a negative after the TWW. I wanted to fall apart but had to stay strong to keep caring for Stuart. 

Our clinic advised us it was a numbers game so 3 months later we started again. That time they transferred two embryos and we hoped and prayed for twins. That round also failed. 

It was at that point my husband needed to start going abroad for medical treatment and we couldn’t make the timings work so ivf was put on hold. 4 months after that on a normal Sunday evening we were just settling down to have a takeaway when Stu suddenly had trouble breathing. He fell to the floor unconscious. While I waited for an ambulance to arrive with the help of our neighbours we did CPR for 45 minutes. To say I wasn’t expecting any of what happened that night would be an understatement. My husband of ten months was pronounced dead at 8.48pm and my world collapsed. I don’t know how we got though the inquest, funeral and Christmas that year it all just feels like a blur looking back. 

With the help of my family and friends plus our beautiful dog Archie I started to put myself back together going for sunrise walks and keeping healthy as I’d made a promise to Stu to bring his baby into this world and I wasn’t going to break that promise. 

Three months later I did our third round of ivf. This time I got less eggs than previously but they transferred one early blastocyst. Looking back I don’t really know why I expected this round to be any different but I was going for a miracle. When I got the negative test I felt like Stu had died all over again. I was angry, sad, heartbroken, all the emotions. 

At the follow up I asked the clinic for advice but they just kept saying that it’s a numbers game, their one suggestion was to try a sperm donor. A very ill advised comment to make to a brand new widow! 

I started to research clinics, read books and found people who gave their own anecdotal accounts of what they did. I found a clinic in London and they agreed to treat me so three months later after taking all the supplements under the sun I packed up our stuff and we (me and Archie) moved to London for five weeks. 

The clinic was like a bootcamp – daily blood tests for two weeks on top of the ivf injections and pessaries. We got ten eggs, which made 9 embryos, they transferred 2 embryos on day 3 and 1 blastocyst on day 5 with 1 to freeze. I practically skipped around for the TWW believing that Stu was with me and this was our time. 

Test day rolled around and I did an at home pee test which was positive but the blood test came back with a low hcg. I didn’t even know that was a thing – what an amateur. Cue the scary wait to have hcg tests every two days. It went up. And then it teetered. And then it went down. We realised I was going to have a very early miscarriage so I returned home, got covid and spent the next ten days very very upset miscarrying at home alone over Stu’s first birthday in heaven.

Some people say a chemical pregnancy or an early miscarriage isn’t as devastating but I disagree. I felt quite glad to be isolated because I couldn’t face anyone. I felt I kept letting everyone down. 

I put myself back together again and decided on a clinic closer to home. I really wanted to try IUI, I just had a gut feeling that maybe that was how this was going to work. 

I did two rounds back to back. The first was unsuccessful, the second was cancelled because I had too many follicles and the clinic thought the risk was too high. Given the failures we had had I was angry at their decision but what choice did I have, Stu wasn’t here to flout the rules and try naturally. 

I changed consultants for the follow up and met the most wonderful doctor. She just got me. She had suffered loss herself and her level of empathy was like nothing I’ve experienced from a medical professional previously. She gave me so much hope.

She suggested before we do another round that we should use the frozen embryo. So off I went to get it transferred to the new clinic and get things going. Just after Christmas the transfer was complete and I trotted off into the new year hoping and praying and constantly asking Stu if he could help with this miracle.

Test day came around and I took an at home test. Negative. I couldn’t believe it. But then a friend and Stu’s sister said they just didn’t think that could be the case and to test the next day. Reluctantly I agreed and to my utter delight the second test was a dye stealer!!! HCGs later and everything was rising as expected and I couldn’t believe it! What a miracle. It was finally time for our 7 week scan so Mum and I drove to the clinic eagerly anticipating seeing our babies heartbeat. The look on the nurses face said if all – as she turned to us and said I’m so sorry there’s no heartbeat. I was referred to the early pregnancy unit at our local hospital for a follow up scan and had to wait another two weeks to double check. False sense of hope all round lead to nothing. A miscarriage management operation was scheduled and as I was wheeled through the same hospital my husband and father had been diagnosed with cancer in I just couldn’t contain my emotions. There was part of me that just wanted the anaesthetic to make me sleep forever. 

The recovery was more brutal than I’d imagined. But something inside me rose up and refused to give up. 

I decided to give my body a break for 3 months, take all the supplements again and do one last round with my own eggs before perhaps moving to donor eggs. I was told either swap to donor eggs or swap to donor sperm and I knew there was no way I was sacrificing my husbands genetics and the whole point (for me) was to bring his baby into the world.

In the meantime I signed up for the donor egg wait list and started the counselling because I’d been advised it could take six months to find a match.

I prepped myself for my final round. Everything was ready to go, the mountain of medication had arrived, baseline scan was all good, it was time to start. And then I heard from the clinic that I’d been matched!!! There were four ladies that were a suitable match but when I read one of them I knew she was the one. 

I really wasn’t sure whether to continue with my own egg round and I was weirdly bereft at the thought of my own round working and then never getting to meet the baby that could be created with this perfect match. Definitely not something I was expecting to feel.

After seeking advice I started the meds, went through to egg collection and they transferred two embryos. They were thought to be good quality so there was every reason to think it could work.

When test day came and the result was negative I felt upset and disappointment but somehow relieved. I think I was so petrified of having another miscarriage that I’d scared myself into not truly relaxing into the thought of my own genetic baby. They say you will just know when it’s time to stop and that was the time. But I’d missed the chance if a fresh round with my match because I’d gone ahead with my own round. I settled on a frozen round and thought that’s the way the universe is working this out. 

Weirdly the day my period came and I called the clinic they said that my cycle had perfectly synced with the donor as she was late so the timing was exactly right for this donor egg cycle to start as a fresh round. 

It was very odd doing a cycle without having to take medication and I thought so much about her in that time, how was she feeling, what was she thinking, would she ever want contact, what a truly heroic thing to do for a stranger. In the UK it’s completely altruistic aside from knowing you’ve done something amazing for someone else there is no gain financially or otherwise. 

This young girl who looked and sounded quite similar to me but is 20 years younger. How could I ever thank her enough.

I paid for 15 eggs and out of those eggs there were 7 beautiful A grade embryos created. The first transfer was unsuccessful so of course I thought this is it I’m not meant to be a Mum but with a bit of encouragement I went straight for a transfer the following month, this time totally naturally no medication and I’m so excited to tell you (well done for getting this far) that I’m now 38 weeks pregnant with our miracle baby boy. 

If he’s anything like his darling Daddy he’s going to bring so much joy to our families. Archie and I can’t wait to meet him!! I truly believe that this little boy is going to change our world and going through all the heartache has made me reassess everything and got me to the person I am today, totally ready for our miracle son to come into the world. 

I am so incredibly grateful to my husband for showing me what true love feels like, to our pup Archie for getting me through the darkest of days, to my folks and others for helping me financially with some of the ivf costs, my Mum for her patience and understanding (she’s going to make a wonderful birthing partner), to the incredible medical pros who have helped me, and the ones who haven’t and of course our very special donor who I couldn’t have done this without.

Esther wears a silver dress with the rainbow skirt. The skirt floats out behind her.

Esther wears a silver dress with the rainbow skirt. The skirt floats out behind her.

Esther wears a silver dress with the rainbow skirt.

Esther wears a silver dress with the rainbow skirt.

Esther wears a silver dress with the rainbow skirt.

Esther wears a silver dress with the rainbow skirt. Her brown dog stands on the ground in front of her.

You can follow Esther on Instagram @estherbathers

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