Egg donation fulfils Cambridge couple’s dream of a family
“Everybody adores them,” says Pamela Keen, as three month old twins Tristan and Reuben babble to each other in the background. “I think we’ve had every single member of the family visit at least twice since they were born!”
Whilst a new baby is cause for celebration in every family, the arrival of Tristan and Reuben was all the more special because the eggs from which they were conceived were donated by Emilia, who is married to Pamela’s brother.
“We first started trying for a baby in 2007,” says Pamela (41), who lives in Swavesey, Cambridge with her husband Nathan (43). “You spend month after month expecting to get pregnant, but it just wasn’t happening for us.”
As time passed and following tests with her GP, Pamela came to accept that she was unlikely to conceive naturally and the couple arranged to receive fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, the world’s first IVF centre.
However, on the day Pamela was due to start her first cycle of treatment, she was astonished to discover she was pregnant. Unfortunately, the pregnancy did not progress and Pamela tragically had a miscarriage. After taking some time recover, the couple decided to continue their journey with Bourn Hall Clinic.
“The doctor informed us that IVF with my own eggs was unlikely to be successful because a scan showed I only had one follicle, and this meant that only one egg, if any, would be released. On top of this, if the egg released was not of good quality, then there was a possibility I could have another miscarriage.”
A baby girl is born with hundreds of thousands of ovarian follicles, each containing an immature egg. However, the number of follicles decreases constantly throughout life, and only around 400 mature eggs are ever released for reproduction. As a woman approaches 35, the quality of her remaining eggs declines quickly and when there are none remaining, she will start the menopause.
“We were advised to tell as many of our friends and family about our situation as possible, because this would increase the chances of us finding a donor. We hoped that perhaps a distant friend of a friend would come forward, but in the end we had three offers of help which was absolutely amazing!
“Emilia and my brother, Paul, have two older children and we are very close to them as a family, so it just felt right for us to accept the incredible offer from them.”
Emilia underwent egg retrieval on March 10th 2011 and these were fertilized with Nathan’s sperm. Five days later the embryos were implanted inside Pamela and much to the couple’s delight, a positive pregnancy test confirmed that treatment had been successful. However, at around five weeks, Pamela was alarmed to find she was bleeding.
“We were devastated. We told our family it was over which was incredibly difficult. We couldn’t have a scan at that stage because it was too early in the pregnancy, so the next couple of weeks were a very sad time for us.”
Thankfully an ultrasound scan later revealed, to Pamela’s astonishment, that not only was she still pregnant, she was expecting twins. Following a difficult first few weeks, the remainder of Pamela’s pregnancy proceeded normally and Tristan and Reuben arrived just after 11pm on 11.11.11. When asked if there is anything she would like to say to her sister-in-law, Pamela has an easy answer.
“Emilia is an angel, when I asked her why she chose to donate her eggs to me, she simply said, ‘because you are my family and I love you’. For most people it would have been an extremely difficult decision, but Emilia didn’t even hesitate and for this, Nathan and I will be eternally grateful. We are also extremely thankful to the amazing staff at Bourn Hall, who provided hope and comfort through some very difficult times.
“For any one considering egg donation, I would let them know that there is no better gift you could give someone. Being told that you will never be able to have your own children leaves you heartbroken and full of grief.
“We will never forget how fortunate we are to be one of the couples whose journey ended in success; we know that for many couples, the pain goes on.”
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