In the final part of our series on a year that changed my life, Zoe and Andrew Evans tell Sarah Freeman how a decade-long struggle to become parents ended last year with the birth of baby Mia.
Zoe evans has always loved her job as a nursery nurse. However, when she and her husband struggled to conceive, spending five days a week surrounded by babies and toddlers was not always easy.
“I didn’t need any help feeling broody,” says the 31 year old from Doncaster. “Sometimes it was difficult, I wanted a child so much and yet there were moments when I wondered whether it would ever happen.”
After badly injuring her pelvis while on a skiing holiday some years earlier, Zoe had always suspected that when she decided to start a family she might have difficulty getting pregnant.
In her early 20s she had been thrown off a toboggan ride. Badly bruised and in severe pain, her pelvis took the brunt of the fall and while she made a full recovery in the back of her mind she did wonder whether there would be any long lasting effect from the injury.
It was why when she and her husband Andrew began trying for a baby 10 years ago they didn’t immediately worry when Zoe didn’t become pregnant. They had expected it might take them a little longer than other couples, but as the months turned into years or false hope and disappointment, their desperation to have a family of their own increased.
Initial fertility tests failed to show any abnormalities which might have explained their difficulty conceiving. However, the couple refused to give up on the dream of having a family of their own and it eventually transpired that the cause of their infertility was not down to Zoe’s earlier injury.
“Eventually they discovered I had polycystic ovaries,” she says. “It took a while to diagnose as I didn’t have any of the more obvious symptoms. Many women who suffer from the condition also have excessive hair growth or put on weight. That wasn’t me and so it went undetected.”
However, when Zoe began suffering major stomach cramps while holidaying with Andrew on the East Coast she underwent a more detailed examination which revealed a number of cysts. They were told if they wanted a child which was biologically theirs, the only option was IVF and they were referred to CARE Sheffield to discuss options.
Having opened in 1988, the facility is one of the oldest and most successful IVF clinics in the UK and while there are never any guarantees, last year it had a pregnancy success rate of 52 per cent among women able to use their own eggs.
“They did give us leaflets about fostering and adoption, but I didn’t even read them. If there was a chance of having our own child I wanted to give it a go,” says Zoe. “At first they didn’t know whether I was producing my own eggs, but thankfully they found that I was. Harvesting eggs is a pretty painful procedure and when you are lying in a hospital bed with your feet in stirrups, any sense of dignity disappears pretty quickly. But I didn’t care. I would have put myself through a hundred times worse to have a baby.”
When the couple went back to the clinic a few days later, Zoe admitted to doctors that she wasn’t feeling 100 per cent and for a while it seemed the procedure to implant the fertilised embryo would have to be postponed. Eventually they decided they would go ahead, but the couple faced an anxious wait to see if it had been successful.
“It was two weeks before I could do a pregnancy test,” says Zoe. “I’ll never forget going upstairs to the bathroom and staring at that stick to see if it was going to change colour. When it turned positive I called Andrew up straight away, but I still couldn’t celebrate. I’d had phantom pregnancies in the past and I just couldn’t trust what I was seeing.
“I phoned my mum and told her to go to the shops to buy various different tests. All of them said the same thing - I was pregnant - but it was only when we went back to the clinic and they did their own test that I actually believed that Andrew and I were going to have a baby.”
The couple were given an initial due date of December 29, but Mia Rose didn’t arrive until a week later weighing a healthy 7lbs.
“I spent most of last Christmas cleaning the house,” says Zoe. “I needed a distraction and that was it. Because of the problems I’d had in the past with my hips and pelvis I wanted a water birth. It was all booked in, but when I went into labour and we got to the hospital we were told that it wouldn’t be possible because they didn’t have enough staff. The birth was fairly traumatic and I did lose a lot of blood, but at 3.43am on January 6, Andrew and I were finally parents.”
Keen to get home and begin their new life as a family, Zoe spent just one night in hospital.
“When we left the maternity ward I was pretty overcome with emotion,” says Andrew. “It felt like the longest drive home, but once we shut the door it was a pretty amazing feeling. I come from a pretty big family - I’ve got six brothers and sisters and 11 nieces and nephews and they were all desperate to come and see Mia.”
“In the end we had to operate an appointment system, giving people a time to come round,” adds Zoe. “Throughout the last 10 years we’ve had so much support from both our families and they just wanted to share our joy. It was the same at Andy’s work - they knew how long we had waited and now Mia does get treated like a real princess.”
It’s easy to see why. With a shock of brown hair and big doe eyes, the new addition to the Evans family always makes her presence felt.
Zoe and Andrew would like to undergo another round of IVF as there is a second fertilised embryo ready to be implanted. However, it comes down to finances. While every area has different criteria for funding IVF, in Doncaster following one successful treatment, couples must pay. For the Evans that means finding £1,200.
“Neither of us earn a fortune,” says Andrew, who was made redundant as a truck driver a number of years ago. “It was when the recession hit and the work just dried up. I did sign up to an agency, but it was too unpredictable. You’d get a contract, but a few days before it was due to start it would be cancelled. I thought, ‘Right I’m going to just have to change the type of jobs I’m going for’ and ended up getting a position with Asda just down the road.”
He’s recently been promoted to section head and the shift patterns means he can spend more time with his daughter than he ever would have had he still been driving HGVs.
“This last year has been incredible and becoming parents has been better than either of us thought possible, but of course I would like a brother or sister for Mia. I am hoping we can get enough money together at some point next year, but we will just have to wait and see.
“When they did the initially procedure they selected the two best embryos. One of those gave us our daughter and it does feel like the final part of our family is waiting for us.”