Parents of Bolton's first IVF baby: ‘It was difficult at times but worth it’
THE parents of Bolton’s first IVF baby Lucy Sheppard have revealed the frustration and heartache they had to go through to get their “perfect” family.
When Nicola and James Sheppard got married in 1998, they assumed, like many healthy young couples, that they would simply get pregnant — but they didn’t.
Tests later revealed that IVF was their only option.
The couple were knocked by the news but paid £3,500 in the hope that it would help them conceive.
It worked — Lucy was born happy and healthy at The Beaumont Hospital in 2000, and they have since had two more IVF babies, Jack, now aged nine, and Samuel, aged seven, to make their family complete — and Nicola even donated some of her eggs to help other couples who could not conceive.
But, where on the face of it they are the perfect family, in the process they had to suffer two unsuccessful IVF attempts and two bereavements when Jack and Sam’s twin siblings did not make it — and they are now a hefty £15,000 lighter.
They both say that they would do all again in the same way, but they want to bring home the reality that although IVF is a great help to many couples struggling to conceive, there is the chance of it bringing more heartache along the way.
“We were very lucky that IVF worked first time with Lucy. You don’t realise how lucky until the second time you try and it doesn’t work.
“Our third time worked but we lost Jack’s twin, which was devastating. The fourth didn’t work and then the fifth time it worked but we lost Sam’s twin Harry.
“I don’t know why I wanted a third child so much. I always wanted three. I didn’t care how much it cost by the fifth time — I wanted a third child.”
The couple, who met on a night out in 1997, decided they wanted a baby as soon as they got married in 1998 — but after months of trying they went to the doctors.
Mrs Sheppard added: “We both have always wanted children. We started trying for a baby pretty much straight away. “Nothing happened so we went and had tests done and we found out that there was a problem.
“We were told that IVF was the only option for us, but to keep trying. It was quite daunting but there was no way we weren’t going to give it a try. We had to go for counselling, all the tests to detect diseases carried by your genes.
“The first time cost the most because the next time you don’t need counselling and tests.”
Two and a half weeks after the couple’s embryos had been mixed, they went back for a scan to see whether it had worked.
Mrs Sheppard said: “We were overjoyed when it worked, although a bit naive to think it would work a second time.
“We went mad when I was pregnant. Everything we bought was designer. I suppose when it’s your first and you go through all that to get pregnant it’s natural to want to get the best of everything.
“We found out that she was a girl at the 20 week scan so we went out and bought everything for the nursery in pink. I wasn’t bothered about the gender — I just wanted to make sure she was okay.”
Lucy was born by Caesarean section on November 6, 2000, at a very healthy 9lbs.
Nicola said: “She was transverse breach so I had to have a Caesarean.
“They gave Lucy to James and then to me. It was the most amazing moment of my life. It was frightening because she was ours, but it was lovely too. She was such a lovely baby.”
Within a year the couple decided to try again, but this time they weren’t so lucky.
Mrs Sheppard said: “It wasn’t long before we wanted to try again, but that time it failed at fertilisation. I was a wreck — we were both so upset. It was almost like grief. I suppose you think that it’s just going to be the same as the last time but it’s not like that.
“I kept going back to Lucy feeling lucky that I had her. You’ve just got to carry on.
“Another year passed and we decided to try again. This time it worked and I found out I was having twins. But I lost one of them. It was awful.
“When Jack was finally born I was so relieved.”
Despite their upset and the trauma of losing a baby, the couple wanted a third, and Mrs Sheppard admits that she was consumed by the need for another baby.
She said: “It consumes you so much it just takes over. You find that other women are getting pregnant and it becomes the only thing that matters.
“The fourth attempt didn’t work which was another big blow, but when we tried for the fifth time we found out we were having twins again, which is fairly common if you have IVF.
“With Sam we did an egg share which means I donated my eggs to another family who were struggling to have children — so she will use my eggs and her husband’s sperm.
“For couples who can’t have children that’s great, although the law had just changed when I did it so that if their child is successfully fertilised and born they have the right to come and find me in the future if they want to.
“I’m okay with that but I think the law will put a lot of potential donors off.”
Her third pregnancy went well until the couple were hit with a bombshell at the 20 week scan.bombshell.
She said: “There was nothing wrong until the 20 week scan — that’s why it was such a shock. The senior radiologist was called and they told us that Sam’s twin Harry had encephalocele, where his brain was coming out the back of his skull.
“They said that he could be born but he would have severe learning difficulties and be in a wheelchair. We discussed it at length but nothing was going in his favour and he would have no quality of life.
“They couldn’t do a foetal reduction until 32 weeks to give Sam the chance to survive. Sam was born at 35 weeks. I had a section and Harry came out first then Sam. I had to carry Harry in my womb for three weeks. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through.
“They took Harry away and they dressed him in the same outfit as Sam, who was fine. It was so hard to be really happy though. We had a proper funeral for Harry which was devastating.”
The children are living proof that IVF can make a difference to people with fertility problems, and despite the problems they encountered, the couple are happy they did it.
Mrs Sheppard said: “Having the three children I always wanted has made me feel complete as a family. If I had to go back to the beginning and do it again I would. Despite all the upset and heartbreak we have three beautiful children out of it.”
Mr Sheppard, an electrician, aged 39, added: “I was fine with two children but I could see how much it meant to Nicola to have a third, so I supported her decision.
“It was really hard at times — burying Harry was the worst. And the frustration when it doesn’t work is tough. But we have three perfect children out of it which I wouldn’t change for the world.”
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