And what a journey IVF is! Particularly when your only choice is to go down the private route, but I’ll get on to that later.
When I decided to go ahead with my journey to be an SMBC (solo mother by choice), I was truly jumping into the unknown. It’s overwhelming, and you keep asking yourself ‘Am I really going to go through with this?!’. You worry about everything from finances, to your potential child’s emotional wellbeing as a baby that will come into this world via the modern day science of using a donor. And of course there’s your own emotions and ability to cope. Worrying isn’t a bad thing though, because it’s a journey where you need to consider every angle, both the good and the challenging.
I started where I’m guessing a lot of people start. On Google. I knew my only option to become a mother was via IVF, and that adoption was something that was not going to work out for me.
I Googled SMBC forums, and that’s where I started learning and gathering information, by reading posts from other women either starting their IVF journey or sharing their stories. There was info on IVF clinics all over Europe and so I started researching various places.
I made a short list, which consisted of a clinic in Russia, a clinic in Denmark and a clinic in London. And then I made contact with all three, setting up phone calls, video calls and in the case of the London clinic, attending an open evening.
Whilst making contact with clinics I also went for what felt like a gazillion tests, and these tests are not cheap when you’re going private. So let me explain that part first. We have the most amazing NHS (National Health Service) here in the UK, and I am so grateful for this free public service, but sometimes, and in my case, I couldn’t utilise the IVF services of the NHS. To be eligible you need to be in a heterosexual relationship, meet certain age criteria and have been trying for a baby for a certain amount of time.
Although I still scraped in (just!) on the age limit side of things with my local hospital, because I was going through this process on my own, I didn’t qualify. I’ve found this a bitter pill to swallow to be honest. It’s a big enough process going it alone, without being lumbered with the costs of private fertility clinics. There is one exception as I know someone will bring this up if I don’t mention it, if you’re solo or a same sex couple, and you’ve attempted multiple IUI’s (which is where they inject sperm into a woman when she’s ovulating) and they’ve failed, you can then utilise the NHS system, but you have to spend a bunch of cash first with the IUI’s, so either way it’s still a costly experience.
Back to the tests. My first test was something called an AMH test, which tests the capacity of your ovaries to provide eggs that are capable of fertilisation. ie the quality of your eggs. This came back ‘average for my age’, so that was a good enough start. Next up was the Antral Follicle fertility scan, an internal scan that evaluates a woman’s ovarian reserve – ie her supply of eggs. This all came back looking average for my age too.
There’s a bunch of other tests that need to be done, from HIV to Hepatitis B amongst others. This was definitely a costly exercise, but one where I also found out I’d somehow contracted Hep B at some point! A slightly frightening diagnosis when a random doctor at a private clinic just said to me ‘You have Hepatitis B’. What?! I made an urgent appointment with my GP who sent me to hospital for further tests, and thankfully the virus was no longer living in my body. I’ve no idea how I contracted it, or when, and I never will!
The Russian clinic were brilliant and quick to respond with zoom call appointments, but the flight distance and the likelihood that UK were heading into covid lockdown meant I decided to rule this option out.
The Denmark clinic was by far the best clinic in every aspect. Their efficiency and amount of information they required was mind blowing, and although a little frustrating to gather all the details they needed before they would even consider speaking with me, I was so impressed by them. I had a wonderful zoom call appointment with one of their team, but then again the covid lockdown was looming so it wasn’t possible to go with them.
I had some initial consultation appointments with the London clinic just before lockdown, and decided it made the most sense to go with them, not to mention it was a fairly short bus ride from home to clinic. But as I mentioned above, covid, then lockdown, and that was that, I just had to wait things out.
There wasn’t a lot I could do between March and July, until the London clinic finally started accepting patients again. During that time I spent HOURS searching donors, which is probably the part that people are most curious about, understandably! And I will talk about that in the next post. When the London clinic finally opened, I had to pay for most of my tests all over again, because the results have to be less than 3 months old. My poor, poor bank account! But all I could do was have a little sigh to myself, and just keep moving forward.
To Be Continued….