New mum advises women struggling to have a baby how to save themselves heartache
Michelle Hutchings’ baby Ava Rose, born on 11 April 2023, is the result of a double donation – donor egg and donor sperm – a possibility she is convinced not enough people are aware of.
Her fertility journey started in 2009, when she was 31, by which time she and her then husband had been trying for a baby for a year. In 2011 they were referred for fertility treatment and over the next six years she says she had every available treatment going and endured three miscarriages. The marriage did not survive.
Michelle said: “Nobody told me that by the time you reach your thirties the quality of your eggs has started to decline, so mine were probably already less viable when we started trying for a baby.
“Things were made worse because after the first two miscarriages I had to have a D&C, followed by two operations to remove the scarring on my remaining womb tissue, which all resulted in a thinner than optimal endometrial lining. It was a tough journey.”
In 2017, with a new partner, she started trying again. She had an ectopic pregnancy, then nothing.
By this time her periods were very light and eventually she says she accepted that she was unlikely ever to have a baby.
That was until Michelle saw a programme on TV about how gay couples and single women were having babies, which she hadn’t realised was relatively commonplace.
She said: “I thought: ‘How come they can have babies, and I can’t?’ So I Googled ‘egg donation’ and up popped BCRM, which was where I’d gone for my earlier treatments.
“I convinced my partner we should give it a go and we signed up, but then he got cold feet and it led to us splitting up.
“By now my perspective was different. I felt I was too old to be waiting around to meet somebody else, and there was no good reason why I shouldn’t just go it alone, although I did decide that for the sake of my mental health I would only put myself through it once.
“But deciding to become a solo mum meant that I had to start over again, so I made an appointment to go to BCRM and talk it all through.
“I was delighted to learn there was definitely still a potential route to motherhood for me, using both donor egg and donor sperm.
“Happily, BCRM was able to provide the whole package – donor egg, donor sperm and world-class expertise and the most caring team in the world to put the two together and give me the baby I so wanted.
“The situation with my womb lining could have made it impossible for me to ever carry a baby to term, but fortunately it didn’t.
“As far as the sperm donor was concerned, my choices were limited because of blood group issues, but there was still a good choice from the Cryos donor sperm held at the clinic.
“When it came to choosing the egg donor, Sara English, on BCRM’s egg donor team, was absolutely brilliant and incredibly supportive throughout the entire process. She presented me with details of three potential candidates to choose from, but unfortunately my first choice changed her mind at the last minute, so we had to repeat the process.
“My eventual egg donor was just 22. It blows my mind that young women like her are willing to make this life-changing gift to a stranger. She’ll never know how grateful I am. She’s my absolute hero – she gave me hope again.
“I decided only to use half her available eggs because I had already decided I wouldn’t be repeating the exercise if it didn’t work this time. Of the eight which were fertilised, only two were suitable for implantation – and I was told their quality wasn’t great.
“In fact, my consultant offered to implant both embryos, which made me think that perhaps they didn’t rate their chances very highly, but in the end I went with just one – and my lovely Ava Rose was the result.
“The other embryo remains in frozen storage at BCRM because although I wasn’t planning to try again if this attempt didn’t work, one of the embryologists wisely advised me not to make any irreversible decisions while I was full of pregnancy hormones, so although I think it’s unlikely I’ll do it again – especially since I now have my baby – that option is still there.
“I had a couple of bleeds early in my pregnancy, but the staff were great: really on it with their advice and totally reassuring. And they were right – there was nothing to worry about in the end.
“Funnily enough, having decided to go it alone, I met a new partner when I was nine months pregnant.
“Ava Rose is just adorable and brings me so much joy. I’m loving my maternity leave – we’re always busy! And when I return to work I am lucky in having a friend who is a childminder and my Mum, who lives locally, who will share her care with me.
“I hope my story will inspire others to seek help early if they’re struggling to conceive, and not hesitate to consult fertility specialists, like those at BCRM, who really understand the whole range of options that might apply to their particular situation and will give them the best chance of success in having that baby they so want.”