A Bolton woman has told of her joy of giving her 'miracle' daughter during the pandemic, thanks to the help of an anonymous sperm donor.

Ashley Hughes, 28, from Farnworth, had always dreamed of being a mum.

The healthcare assistant fell pregnant for the first time at 21 with her long-term partner, but sadly suffered a miscarriage.

Devastatingly, she went on to experience two ectopic pregnancies and a further miscarriage, resulting in one of her fallopian tubes being removed.

She began receiving IVF treatment when doctors discovered that she also had a low egg count.

However, she had to stop the treatment in 2017 when her relationship broke down.

After taking some time to regroup, Ashley made the decision to try to conceive using a sperm donor.

"I didn't want to have to rely on anybody else," she explains. "I was looking at the possibility of turning 30.

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"I have been a mum since I was 21, it's just that my babies aren't here, they're in heaven."

When choosing her donor, Ashley only had access to basic information such as height, weight and blood group, as well as short messages from the men themselves.

"At first I thought I would be looking at education and things like that, but the things that I thought would matter actually didn't matter," she says.

She chose her donor for his message, which she says was "really sweet".

After receiving therapy to ensure that she would be able to cope alone with the pressures of the treatment and parenthood, Ashley began IVF again in November 2019.

The first course failed.

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"It absolutely broke my soul," she says.

In January 2020, she began another course, and happily, she fell pregnant.

She was overwhelmed, and her previous losses played on her mind.

"I don't think I was really relieved until she was here," says Ashley. "I always thought something was going to happen, so it wasn't until she was born that that anxiety went away."

'She' is Dolly, the little girl who made her long-awaited debut at the Royal Bolton Hospital on 12 October, 2020.

It was a moment Ashley will never forget.

"I never thought I'd be there," she says. "I always dreamed of holding my baby.

"I've always been the cool auntie, I've got lots of nieces and nephews and I adore every one of them.

"But there's no feeling like holding your own baby.

"I have never felt love like I felt that day - she is just everything."

Dolly, now a happy four-month-old, will be allowed to make contact with her biological father when she turns 18.

"I hope she does want to know, and obviously as she grows up I will explain everything," says Ashley. "He is our hero really.

"Without him she wouldn't be here."

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