Polly’s IVF story as a single mum
When Polly, 39, was facing changes at work it made her realise what she wanted most in life was to be a mum. Here she explains how she underwent IVF as a single woman and the joy she now has with Noah:
“When the London firm I was working for underwent an unpleasant restructure, and some of us had to re-apply for our jobs, it suddenly became very clear to me what I really wanted from life. More important than anything else to me was the wish to try to have a child.
“I had been on my own for a decade and was 37 and could literally feel my biological clock ticking. With no sign of Mr Right showing up, I decided if I didn’t try to have a baby on my own, it might never happen.
“I attended a session at a London IVF clinic, after which I had tests to look at the level of a particular hormone that can give some prediction of fertility, as well as a scan of my ovaries. I had experienced some health problems in the past, which led to me not having periods for a while, so I was very nervous what the tests might find. However to my surprise and relief, I was more fertile than I expected and had a good number of follicles.
“Following the tests, I had a follow-up appointment at the London clinic with a consultant. But their comments and attitude really upset me, and I decided to look elsewhere for treatment and also see whether anything was available to me on the NHS.
“Although I retained my job in London, things had been soured and also, if I was to raise a child, I wanted to be able to afford a house and live in a community that would be child-friendly. I had applied for roles that looked interesting across the country, but by chance I was offered one in Oxford, which I knew a bit as some relatives live there.
Throughout my treatment I got to know a couple of the nurses very well and one in particular was wonderful and really made me feel like an individual and not just another woman on the IVF conveyor belt
“Once settled in my new job, I restarted my plans for a baby. Through my GP I was referred to a NHS gynaecologist. I was able to have some tests through the NHS but because of my age and being a single woman, I wasn’t eligible for any IVF or even IUI. This was a kick in the teeth. A couple of friends, the same age as me in different parts of the country, had received NHS-funded IVF, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t with a man. I was lucky enough to have savings and although I still think the system is unfair, I didn’t think twice about using them to go ahead with treatment.
“It was luck that Oxford Fertility was so convenient but on my first visit I was reassured by the doctor’s compassionate attitude. My younger sister was due to have a baby any day and although I was genuinely excited and happy for her, I was also feeling envious of her and sad about my own circumstances. The doctor said something like ‘how are you today?’ and I just burst into tears. When I explained the situation, she reached across the desk and held my hand and said ‘it’s ok to feel sad for yourself as well as happy for your sister’ and when she said that whichever doctor or nurse I was seen by at the clinic would have the same attitude and ethos, I felt reassured that this was a very different place to the London clinic. Throughout my treatment I got to know a couple of the nurses very well and one in particular was wonderful and really made me feel like an individual and not just another woman on the IVF conveyor belt.
“They talked me through my treatment and were very honest about the challenges I faced. Because I hadn’t had many periods, my womb lining was quite thin and so it might be hard for an embryo to embed. We tried a few different things to ensure I had the best chances before starting IVF, but I was quite unlucky. First I went on the pill, which felt counterintuitive but the hope was it would give me an artificial period, but nothing happened. Then I was given a drug, Provera, with the same aim, but I didn’t respond to that. In the end we just decided to start the cycle of IVF drugs but the nasal spray that is used for downregulation caused cysts to grow on my ovaries – I was in the small percentage of people this happens to.
“It was now approaching Christmas. The clinic closed for a couple of weeks so said I would have to wait until the New Year now to start again. That Christmas I decided to try to enjoy myself and put everything out of my mind.
“Returning in the January we started my treatment, this time on a short protocol with injections. During the process, eggs were collected and injected with sperm from my chosen sperm donor and one of the subsequent embryos was transferred back into my womb. The other embryos were frozen in case I needed them in the future.
“I hadn’t realised that the clinic had so few sperm donors but luckily they had one who sounded perfect. The clinic’s counsellor also meets with every sperm donor to ensure they understand the consequences and are donating for the right reasons, which I found very reassuring.
“Unfortunately that cycle didn’t work. I was devastated. I felt like time was slipping away and with it my chances of getting pregnant. However, I was reassured by consultant doctor at the clinic that more than likely it was nothing I did that caused the embryo to fail, it was probably that the embryo had severe chromosomal abnormalities and so was never going to survive.
“I tried again the next month with a frozen embryo and this time incredibly it worked; I was pregnant. Although it felt like I’d been on the road to that stage for ages, I know in comparison to some women, things happened pretty quickly for me.
I know in my heart that I did the right thing for me and wouldn’t change it for the world – Noah is just the best.
“I loved being pregnant. Once I got over the queasy stage, I almost didn’t want it to end. I felt really well and kept up my active lifestyle, started pregnancy yoga and read lots about hypnobirthing and mindfulness. Sadly I ended up having an induction which failed to work and then led to an emergency caesarean. And although I was upset not to have the birth I’d hoped for, the main thing was that Noah arrived safe and well. He is wonderful. I love being a mum and although I would rather have had a child with a man I love, I am so happy I went ahead on my own. In some ways it’s better – I don’t have to negotiate with anyone else about how to do things or bring him up, and we’ve had incredible support from family and friends. He’s the first boy in the family for a while and my parents love being hands-on grandparents.
“I would advise any other woman considering it to be honest with themselves, both about what they want out of life and also if they are happy changing their lives, have the finances and the energy to go it alone. I know in my heart that I did the right thing for me and wouldn’t change it for the world – Noah is just the best.”