For the couple who undertakes it, the IVF clinic and its staff will forever be part of their lives, whatever the outcome. I still remember the details of my wife’s and my first conversation with an IVF counsellor. I remember the specialist’s repeated reassurances that she’d seen “many successful pregnancies from embryos in worse shape than these”. I still remember the nurse from the clinic telling us, on our final IVF round, that all the signs were right for a pregnancy. And I still remember that same nurse calling on Christmas Eve to inform us that was sadly no longer the case.
What a gift IVF has been, bringing joy to so many couples who thought they’d never hold their own ‘little us’. Sadly, it’s still a fallible tool and some of us return home without our hoped-for outcome. But for the scientists, specialists, nurses and support staff, know that you automatically become part of our lives for good when we walk through your door – your words and expressions forever in our memories as you bring us the best news of our lives or the worst. IVF makes that big an impression on a couple, whatever the outcome. In our case, the memories of you are all warm. And for that I’m grateful.
Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster, frequently presenting Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2. His and his wife’s story of starting again after a decade of infertility is told in his memoir, Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings.
Sheridan Voysey , Writer | Speaker | Broadcaster
I find it amazing to think that it’s almost 40 years since the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby – conceived after many years of perseverance by Bob Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy. I was doing my A levels at the time , so I wasn’t really there at the beginning, but not far off. When I started working in the field of reproductive medicine in the 1980’s, the HFEA hadn’t yet been founded and IVF practices weren’t really regulated or structured as they are now. I remember being inspired by Bob Edwards who was the scientific director of the clinic that I was working in and always amazed to see babies born that I had first observed as a cluster of cells down a microscope. So much has changed – too long a list to go through in this short paragraph – and, with over 7 million babies born as a result of IVF worldwide, the technologies continue to advance – although sadly the woeful lack of funding from the NHS to provide equal and adequate access around the UK has become even worse. I love my job and the team I work with, who I consider to be like a big family all working together (scientists, embryologists, nurses, counsellors, medics and of course the administrative and support staff who keep the wheels oiled). It is humbling to have been able to help so many couples achieve their desired families and also hopefully to have done our best to support those whose dreams sadly didn’t come true. Our annual Fertility Awareness Week is an important time to shout out about the affect infertility has on people and how in reality IVF and its associated treatments are cost-effective and worthy of proper funding by the NHS.
Adam Balen MB,BS, MD, DSc, FRCOG
Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery
Chair of The British Fertility Society
Leeds Fertility, Seacroft Hospital, Leeds LS14 6UH
I thought I would share a few memories.
I started my career in Bristol in 1994 and had the pleasure of working in a team lead by Mike Hull, Barbara Ray and Alan McDermott; quite a combination and one which impressed and motivated me from my very first day. I will never forget the first time I looked down a microscope and saw those first signs of fertilisation; a beautiful zygote, and my shock when two days later it had failed to form an embryo worthy of transfer. That demonstrated to me very early on in my career how the odds were not in our patients favour and how much work was still ahead of us.
I had the pleasure early in my career to hear Sir Bob Edwards lecture at the BFS/ACE meeting and was suitably inspired by his honesty, tenacity and passion. I was so very sad, yet honoured to represent ACE at his funeral in Cambridge in 2013; a man we all owe a great debt to and always will.
It has been the opportunity to answer the question “What if?” What if we have treatment and we are in the 25% for whom it does work? This is such an important part of the journey for so many couples facing infertility. This is why the axing of NHS funded IVF in England is so short sighted. Infertility is a disease and not a life style choice. One of the causes of our infertility is my battle with endometriosis, a disease process which was left undiagnosed and missed in me for seven years.
I’m Elliot, I’m 21 years old and have just left University. My twin sister, Katie is planning to return to Lancaster University to complete a masters in Geography. I’m intending to start my career and look for work. I have very mixed feelings about where I’m going or if I’m doing the right thing. I’m nervous as I currently don’t know where I’m headed but also excited to find out what exactly I end up doing. I’m hoping to work in broadcast radio somewhere relatively close to home.
Other than conversations with my family, the fact that I was an IVF child wasn’t brought up much through my childhood. However, growing into my mid to late teens, my friends began to take an interest. Whether that was because they had recently become aware of the treatment or aware that I had been born as a result. I never felt the need to tell people. I’d often get asked “what’s it like to be an IVF baby” to which I’d often jokily respond with “what’s it like not being an IVF baby?”
Other than the way I was born I don’t see much difference in the way I am or the way I’ve been raised. I would envision that Katie and I are the most typical siblings! We argue like all brothers and sisters do. We have good moments like all brothers and sisters do. We’re a pretty normal family in that respect.
IVF is the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life. It is full of disappointment and hope.
Both my ICSI ivf attempts failed. And I was left feeling like I hated everyone who had a child, upset and angry cross- depressed. I began to feel less important after IVF failed a second time: IVf was no longer defining my journey as a person and I would never have children.
Our journey has been hard. No one would ever choose to go through IVF, it’s tough mentally & physically, for both involved. It’s something you never dream of having to go through, your body should be able to do this naturally right?! But unfortunately this isn’t so for 1 in 8 couples.
We had 2 attempts, first we got 3 eggs, one empty shell, one not mature and one mature enough but did not fertilise. The second round we only got 1 egg but it gave us our bundle of joy, born 2 weeks before my 40th birthday – the best present I could have ever asked for.
He will be 2 in December!
We never thought that we’d see the day where we too. could share our good news with the world!