My wife and I were high school sweethearts. We were both educated under the thumb of Section 28 and we both endured homophobic abuse. We knew that we wanted to get married and have children but we couldn’t see a future where that would be possible. We fought through so much to be together and figured that fight would keep us together no matter what.
When we were 25, we had a pagan handfasting ceremony which (post 1745) wasn’t legally binding but was special to us. As soon as we were able to legalise our union, we did. Following our handfasting ceremony, we decided to start our journey towards creating a family.
At first, we tried at-home insemination whereby a friend would provide fresh semen in a menstrual cup and I would insert the cup and lie on my back with my legs in the air for hours. This didn’t work. We weren’t too bothered in the first instance and figured some precise science would be more helpful.
We had both saved money from a young age and had decently waged jobs so when we were told we couldn’t get NHS funded fertility treatments, we weren’t too concerned. We figured that getting pregnant would be easy - We didn’t consider that the difficulties would come with staying pregnant.
We had to pay for the initial consultation - we didn’t mind this, we were excited to get started. We had two rounds of IVF each using our own eggs, our friend’s sperm and no medication - we were told this was the cheapest option. My first attempt didn’t take and neither did my wife’s first attempt. My second attempt took but didn’t stick and I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks. I was told “Not to worry, lots of people miscarry in the first trimester and don’t even know about it.” Who the fuck says that!? My wife’s second attempt took but then at her first scan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and we faces the agonising decision to terminate in order to save my wife. We stopped trying for 6 months whilst my wife underwent a bilateral salpingo‑oophorectomy - a procedure to remove both of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
I then had four rounds of IVF using a donor egg and sperm from our friend. Each attempt costing £10k. None of them stuck. It was at this point my wife and I took some time to discuss just how much of our savings we wanted to use to create a family.
Our next visit to the fertility clinic, the doctor wanted to conduct a series of tests - these tests wouldn’t be funded by the NHS because we’d already begun the journey privately. Our friend, who’s sperm we were using, also had tests and this is where things started to get messy. There were blood tests, ultrasounds, semen analysis, therapy sessions. Each one costing hundreds of pounds. No problems were found. There was no valid reason why I couldn’t stay pregnant.
Whenever tests were scheduled, my wife and I were always perfectly clear that she and I would be the mothers of the baby and our friend would have no parental input. The three of us would attend appointments together and we would introduce ourselves with specific information - “My name is Lisa*, this is my wife Jade* - we will be the parents and this is our friend Michael* who is donating his sperm.” - Yet somehow, Michael and I were always assumed to be together. They would call the two of us into a room as if we were a couple and we would have to remind them that Michael wasn’t a parent but a donor and that Jade would be the second parent. This was met with confusion every time with Jade missing out on first hand information because only the “two parents” could be in the room.
After three years of trying, our savings had dwindled to almost nothing. Michael had decided he could no longer cope with coming to appointments and mine and Jade’s marriage was hanging by a thread.
We looked into adoption but decided against it after speaking to adoptees via a support group. Then one night, Jade told me to “just go out and hook up with some random guy”. I was sickened at the thought. I’d never been with a man before and the very notion of it made me shake with anxiety. Jade said “Plenty of people go through a ‘phase’ of experimentation, think of it as that!” She was serious! She wanted me to have sex with a stranger in order to fulfil our dream of creating a family. I was mortified. Being a parent had meant so much to both of us. We knew we wanted this from our very first kiss. Neither of us had been intimate with anyone else and the thought of letting another person know me intimately made me sick to my stomach.
After hours and hours of late night conversations, Jade had convinced me to have a one night stand. I got dressed up to the nines, had a few vodka shots before leaving the house and went into town in search of an unsuspecting mate. I got chatting to Felix* at a dive bar who bought me a drink and then asked if I wanted to get something to eat. I came clean to him almost immediately, the words tumbling from my mouth like verbal diarrhoea. Even the thought of going to dinner with someone who isn’t my wife filled me with indescribable feelings. To my surprise, Felix didn’t run from me. He said he still wanted to buy me dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant in the centre of town and spoke at length about what had lead me to this point. Felix said that we shouldn’t have sex but we should definitely be friends. I went home and cried in my wife’s arms until I passed out from exhaustion.
We decided to take a year off from trying for a baby. My body needed to recover and we needed to focus on our relationship. I could hardly believe that things had got to a point where I’d genuinely convinced myself that I would have sex with a stranger just to start a family.
In June of 2019, we decided to have one last shot at IVF using a donor embryo leftover from someone else’s fertility journey and in March of 2020, we welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world. Unfortunately, Jade and I separated in May of this year, just 6 weeks after our daughter turned 2. We don’t know if the separation will be permanent or not. So much had happened on our journey towards motherhood and we had no support that didn’t bleed us dry. We’d planned to get married buy a house, have a baby but we didn’t plan for the stress and the heartache of it all. Nor the financial burden. Had we been able to have IVF on the NHS, I’ve no doubt that even if things had gone the same way, things would have turned out differently having financial security.
IVF costs UK - costs and add-ons breakdown
Information from https://fertilityroad.com/ivf-costs-uk-revealed/
Medical consultation with a doctor£200-£400
Medications (per cycle)£500 - £2,300
Sperm freezing before IVF with one year’s storage£300 - £700
Donor sperm£500 - £1,000
ICSI£800 - £1,250IMSI£250 - £600
Blastocyst culture£400 - £800
Embryo monitoring (eg time-lapse, Embryoscope)£300 - £850
AH (Assisted Hatching)£200 - £550
EmbryoGlue£100 - £380
PGT-A / PGS genetic embryo testing (per set of 4 embryos)£1,600 - £3,000
Embryo freezing and one year’s storage£600 - £800
Frozen embryo transfer (FET)£1,100 - £3,000
*Names have been changed for privacy.