They struggled for years to conceive their baby girl – and decided to donate eggs to help other IVF couples at the same time. Jeni Harvey meets the Fenwick family from Doncaster.
JUST five months old, little Freya Fenwick has no idea of the years of tests, heartbreak and agonising decisions that led to her birth.
For her parents Lindsay and James, from Doncaster, struggled with years of infertility before deciding to undergo IVF treatment – during which Mrs Fenwick decided to donate her own eggs, in order to help other women in their quest to conceive a longed-for baby.
The couple both attended Thorne Grammar School, north of Doncaster, and were just 14 years old when they first got together.
They married at the age of 23 and began trying for a baby almost straight away, Mrs Fenwick said.
“We always wanted children. But after about 12 to 18 months, when I still wasn’t pregnant, we went to see the GP and got referred to a specialist at the Midland Fertility Clinic, who put us through a series of tests.
“One doctor who I went to see said I’d got polycystic ovaries and referred me to a consultant, who sent me for blood tests and said I hadn’t, in fact, got polycystic ovaries.
“At that point I thought that I didn’t want to go down the route of IVF and I was put on Clomid (a drug used to stimulate and regulate ovulation).
“Nothing happened there.”
The Fenwicks, who were living in the West Midlands at that point, then decided to move back to their home village of Thorne, Doncaster.
With the thought of having a child put on the back-burner, they both celebrated their 30th birthdays and got on with their busy lives.
Mr Fenwick, now 33, works as a fireman for the Humberside fire and rescue service, while his wife – the same age – was then working as a manager with the AA. But their thoughts turned once again to the possibility of having children.
Mrs Fenwick said: “After our birthdays, it was a case of, do we want to go down the IVF route or not?
“We went back to the GP and were referred to the hospital, who said they couldn’t find anything wrong with either of us.
“However, what they did say was that we could go through the NHS in order to have IVF, but there was a two-and-a-half year waiting list.
“Before that, I’d have to lose weight in order to lower my BMI (body mass index) to below 30. It was 32 at the time.”
Mrs Fenwick added: “We came home, spoke about it and we knew that if we weren’t successful we wanted to adopt.”
It was then that the Fenwicks realised it may be a race against time.
Before even entering the waiting list for IVF on the NHS, Mrs Fenwick would have to lose weight.
And if the treatment failed, they would have to wait another year before beginning the lengthy adoption process.
“We wouldn’t be getting children until we were 40”, she said.
They decided to go down the IVF route privately, and in February 2012 had their first round of treatment at Care Fertility in Sheffield.
At the same time, Mrs Fenwick decided to donate some of her own eggs, in order to help other couples who may need help conceiving a child.
She said: “We decided that, if I couldn’t have produced eggs, I’d have needed somebody’s help to have a baby, and with deciding to donate I also got a discount on the IVF.
“With the discount, it cost just over £3,000.”
This first round of IVF, however, sadly failed.
“After that, with the pain and the emotional side of it – your hormones are all over the place – we weren’t sure whether we wanted to go through it again.
“It wasn’t so much the worry of it being a drain on our finances, it was the worry about how it would affect us both emotionally”, Mrs Fenwick said.
“But, by the time we went to review the process in May 2012, we’d decided we wanted to give IVF another go – and now we’ve got Freya.”
Mrs Fenwick was made redundant from her job with the AA and spent much of her “fairly straightforward” pregnancy resting, before Freya was born on April 22 this year at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
Due to complications with her birth, which ended in an emergency Caesarean section, Freya had to spend the first weeks of her life in the hospital’s neonatal unit.
Although she was a very healthy weight, at 9lb 7ozs, she suffered problems with her breathing and, even when she was discharged, was sent back home to Thorne with oxygen.
“During the pregnancy I felt nauseous at times, and tired, but I didn’t have any major problems”, Mrs Fenwick said.
“The birth wasn’t what I expected. I wanted an active, natural birth without using much more than gas and air, but that wasn’t how things turned out and we ended up with an emergency section.
“Freya was very ill, but the nursing staff were fantastic.
“They were happy to speak to us at any time and discuss any aspect of Freya’s health.
“James and I were by her bedside 24/7 and we built up a good rapport with the staff, who became our family and friends.
“While on the one hand we were desperate to get her home, we knew she had to be there.
“It was a very strange experience and, when we eventually did come home, that was strange too, after so long in the neonatal unit.”
After her tricky start, Freya is now a healthy five-month-old, and is “very observant”, according to her besotted mother.
“She’s doing really, really well”, Mrs Fenwick said.
“We were obviously worried, but she came off the oxygen on July 18 this year and is doing fine.”
The Fenwicks also know that there could potentially be another baby out there who was born from Mrs Fenwick’s donated eggs.
“When you do egg donation, you take the drugs at the same time as the person that’s taking your eggs”, she said.
“It’s not like your eggs are stored anywhere – they’re put straight into another woman.
“It’s lovely to think that, by donating, we’ve given somebody else that chance.
“We also have the option to find out if that woman became pregnant, although we haven’t done it yet.
“We didn’t find out the first time, as it didn’t work for us, but we may do this time.”
Adel Shaker, medical director at Care Sheffield, said: “We would like to send our best wishes to Lindsay and James on the birth of Freya.
“We are busy making babies every day so we love to hear of a new arrival.
“We hold free information evenings every month for anyone wanting to find out about fertility treatment.”