After struggling to conceive naturally, Sam Mower, 42, a critical care matron from Knebworth, Herts, turned to IVF. Read her story and find out about Asda's not-for-profit IVF service:
I don’t think it was until she was laid on my chest, as Neil and I wept with happiness, that I truly believed I was a mum. It was the most surreal, amazing moment of my life.
Holding my daughter in my arms, just seconds after she was born, I could scarcely believe that I was finally a mother.
Charlotte’s birth last June marked the end of a three-year journey, during which I’d pushed my body, marriage and finances to the limit – all to fulfil my lifelong dream of motherhood.
When my husband Neil, 38, a management consultant, and I began trying for a baby in 2012, the year after we got together, I knew we’d need some help. I’d been treated for endometriosis, a condition that causes swelling and inflammation around the reproductive organs, as well as an ovarian cyst in 2010, and doctors warned I might need help to conceive.
After eight months, my GP referred us for tests. These didn’t reveal why I wasn’t falling pregnant but we were advised to begin IVF because at 38, my fertility was waning. Despite knowing it would be hard for me to conceive, I still felt a huge sense of loss that my body wasn’t able to do what it’s designed for. Even tougher was being surrounded by women who were able to get pregnant easily. I have three sisters – one is my identical twin Claire – and eight nephews and nieces aged from four to 15. Claire announced she was pregnant with Phoebe that year and, in private, I wept, ashamed at my jealousy that she was having her third child when all I wanted was one.
Neil and I were entitled to one NHS-funded cycle of treatment and fortunately we only had to wait three months for it. I knew IVF held no guarantee of a baby, but the odds were stacked against me – I only had a 10% chance of conceiving due to my age and previous health issues. We started treatment in September 2013 and I had to inject myself with hormones every day to stimulate my ovaries, which left me tearful and emotional. Neil was so supportive and the thought that what we were going through might result in a pregnancy helped me cope. The following month, I had two embryos implanted then had to wait two unbearable weeks before I could take a test. Devastatingly, 13 days later, I began to bleed and a test revealed that I wasn’t pregnant. I was totally overwhelmed with sadness. I’d been convinced that finally, it would be me with a bump, buying baby clothes and decorating a nursery. In an instant, all my optimism was smashed to bits.
But I wasn’t giving up my dream yet and Neil agreed we should pay for a second cycle. We chose Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre (ARGC), a Harley Street clinic, because of its high success rate. This cycle of treatment, at a cost of £10,000, was much more intensive, involving daily blood tests, scans and meetings with doctors. I took a fortnight off work to devote myself to it, convinced that with such a tailored approach, it would work. So it came as a huge shock to be told the embryos created from my eggs and Neil’s sperm were of very poor quality. I completely fell apart. We went ahead but I wept throughout the procedure, knowing in my heart it wasn’t going to work, and I was right. Once again IVF had failed.
The Third Cycle
With each Facebook pregnancy announcement or excited email, my heart broke a little more. I actively avoided pregnant women, even one of my best friends. I was ashamed but it was just too painful to see her bump growing. Sitting down together one evening in June 2014, Neil asked if I was sure I wanted a third cycle. He explained it would be difficult for us to go through it again only for it to end in failure. The treatment put a strain on both of us but I couldn’t contemplate giving up. Neil agreed to one more cycle to make me happy, paid for from our savings. This third cycle, at the same clinic in September 2014, involved additional treatment and cost £17,000. As the day to take the test approached, I felt sick with anxiety. Neil and I waited in silence after I took the test in our bathroom, both prepared for failure. I saw the result before Neil did and immediately dissolved into tears. He reached out to comfort me... then saw the positive test and we just held one another, alternately crying with relief and laughing with sheer joy. It was a moment I’ll never forget, pure elation that, after so long, I was pregnant.
Early pregnancy is nerve- racking for any woman and only when we reached the 12-week milestone could I finally begin to relax. I had a normal pregnancy and Charlotte was born on 5 June 2015, by elective caesarean section, weighing 7lb 14oz. I don’t think it was until she was laid on my chest, as Neil and I wept with happiness, that I truly believed I was a mum. It was the most surreal, amazing moment of my life. It goes without saying that Charlotte is our whole world – we adore her. The love I feel for her is indescribable, and I believe she’s the baby we were destined to have. Every injection, every tear we shed, every penny we spent – they all led us to her.
I will be forever grateful that IVF gave her to us and made my dream of being a mother come true.
HOW ASDA CAN HELP
The cost of IVF on the NHS can vary between clinics and there’s a postcode lottery in terms of how many free cycles a family can receive. Asda Deputy Superintendent Pharmacist Faisal Tuddy says, ‘A considerable number of women have to pay for additional cycles of IVF – and this is often financially as well as emotionally draining. Asda Pharmacy launched its not-for-profit IVF service four years ago, and since then we have helped hundreds of couples.’ For information about IVF prescriptions from Asda and a free consultation with one of our qualified pharmacists, visit the Asda Pharmacy at your local store. You can find your nearest Asda Pharmacy using the store locator.