I’m not saying that before 50 I did not have a life, because I did. I loved every minute of it. My name is Claire and together with my husband John we led a happy life in Southampton until one day…
I had always hated one particular quote – the one that says how we don’t appreciate things in life until they are gone. Thanks to this quote I was always fully aware of the fact how lucky I was to be healthy and loved and I made sure to keep reminding those who made it possible for me to feel this way of my appreciation. I got married and at the age of 34 and two years later gave birth to our son, Ben. The three of us made a perfect family. I never really understood the need of being a parent until Ben was born. He became the meaning of our existence. Together with my husband we cherished the moments spent together.
I’m a newspaper journalist and, with the luxury of this profession, I was able to give up office-based responsibilities and started working from home. This way I had an easier start to my new life as a devoted mother. My husband couldn’t afford as much free time as I could (he is a van driver) but he never used the ‘I’m too tired to play with you’ excuse and Ben loved those moments when John appeared in the doorway after work. When Ben turned two we developed a tradition where we would spend two weekends a month travelling – short trips or longer excursions. We would pack the car and drive to different places.
My husband, as a driver with 20 years of experience, always made the journeys very safe and comfortable. I somehow never felt the urge to become a driver, working in the office I often had to write about local car accidents and it always made me angry. In a split second these people had lost everything. What do you do if the accident was your fault? How do you cope with the thought of ending someone’s life? – I asked these questions in my articles but never really knew the answer. No matter how good a driver you are, there are a whole lot of other people on the street responsible for all of our safety.
Off we go
It was a weekend shortly after Ben’s 12th birthday and we had a trip to London planned. I vividly remember how excited we all were and not just because it was London – Ben’s favourite, but because it was a trip! We absolutely loved it. For the past 10 years of driving around together we could not imagine spending our weekends any other way. The weather was perfect, sunny and so off we went. We drove for around an hour and then all I remember is that I looked at my husband and then I turned around to see Ben, he was asleep. Suddenly everything went dark. The weather was beautiful and sunny but this time it caused more damaged than the biggest storm could ever do. A truck driver, blinded by the sun, hit our car. I wished I had never woken up. John was fighting for his life in the hospital, but our son never opened his eyes again.
Just the two of us
Neither of us could express the pain. I had so many questions so much sorrow in me but I could not speak a word. The truck driver didn’t make it either, and I felt like I had no one to blame. After the accident, John stayed in the hospital for over a week, fighting to stay alive, waiting for me to ease his pain, willing me to be there with him. I couldn’t do it. I locked myself in the house, in Ben’s room tortured by loss. It made no sense. Why? Why had this happened to us? We had done nothing wrong. We had been driving carefully, the weather had been good.
Parents should not bury their children.
He had his whole life ahead of him. I’m never going to see him go to school. The unbearable grief. I couldn’t eat or sleep and did not make a one phone call to check if John was ok. But he was, he came home. We didn’t speak to each other for another week, I was too afraid to face him. I knew that he was filled with the same doubts and questions that I couldn’t answer. With Ben, we found the meaning of our lives and now he was gone and I did not see the point of us. Both adults with no one to take care of. I had completely forgotten how to be a wife; all I could think about is that I was no longer a mother. John made few attempts and tried to talk to me, but we had been silent for too long. Playing the conversation in our heads over and over again only made it worse, because, whenever we started to talk, it always ended up in a fight.
It came to a point where we started to blame each other for our son’s death. We were falling apart…
For a year and a half we were lost and helpless, and completely neglected our marriage. But what I had with John was a deep love and that kind of love doesn’t ask questions it only waits till you are ready to realise things on your own. We understood that no matter what, nothing would ever be able to fill the void, but we also understood that we were not bad parents. Our decision back then had been taken consciously, we had started a family with the thought of growing old together, the three of us. So we decided to become parents again.
After consulting my GP, who cleared up any doubts I had about physically being able to bear a child in my 50’s, we decided to try in vitro fertilization. This decision wasn’t an issue; we were so sure of what we wanted. However, we did encounter some difficulties. Many countries have IVF legislative restrictions, with only women of a certain age eligible for IVF treatment.
It turned out that first we had to find a clinic where IVF is allowed for women of my age. After few months of searching – thanks to EggDonationFriends.com, we found the ideal IVF clinic in Ukraine. We had second thoughts, because you hear all sorts of things about Eastern Europe, but from our research, Ukraine was one of the very few countries that would agree to offer me IVF.
We read the recommendations, called a few people and made arrangements. I had a dream about Ben the night before we went to the clinic. I saw him smiling at me. When I woke up in the morning, I felt a calm warmth in my heart. We are doing the right thing, I thought. No matter where this clinic was, it would be the perfect place anyway.
First day at the clinic and egg donation program
After the initial tests, bitter disappointment. Due to my age the doctor recommended IVF with donor eggs (egg donation program). He said something about the quality of my eggs and how they decline with age, leading to chromosomal aneuploidy – which can cause serious genetic disorders of the foetus. I was sitting there and listening to all that he had to say, even the bit about a possible miscarriage did not seem to matter.
John and I had said from the beginning that we wanted to try IVF with our own eggs, and I really had no doubt that it would be possible. And the dream that I had had about Ben strengthened my belief.
Unfortunately, from the two low quality eggs received there was not a single viable embryo. I had to take a moment.
Back at the clinic
It took us three months to get back to the clinic. We talked with John and both agreed on one thing – we want to be parents again. We wanted to try and have a baby with our own genetic material but it didn’t work. We had no problem with accepting the failure, but we would never have forgiven ourselves if we hadn’t tried all the options.
An egg donation program seemed the only hope, and so we decided to give it a closer look. Our donor, a 24 year old had given birth to a healthy child before. We asked for all the necessary tests to be run, such as karyotype and infection screening. All that made us to prolong our stay in Ukraine for around a week and it started to feel like the whole trip was worth a while. We were back on track.
IVF egg donation program in Ukraine
I got ten eggs from the donor and my husband’s semen was taken. After the IVF+ICSI with donor eggs had been done we received 4 embryos. The embryologist monitored them with the embryoscope to the 5th day and we also received a video showing how the embryos were developing. And so on the 5th day of the blastocyst stadium I had ‘lodged in’ two of the embryos. And look at me, I’m joking about it now but yes, lodged in seems like a perfect way to put it.
On the 5th day of the blastocyst stadium I had ‘lodged in’ two of the embryos.
I had carefully picked my ‘tenants’ and took pains to make sure they felt at home. We had to be in constant contact with the clinic for another 6 weeks and they were very supportive and carefully regulated my medication after the embryo transfer.
In the 12th week, pregnancy was confirmed but was immediately marked as a high risk, due to my age and the fact that we had conceived through IVF. This didn’t worry me unduly but I did have to see my doctor more often, which was fine as I was carrying someone very special. I had my prenatal test done too, which showed that everything was progressing well. The hardest part was over and so thanks to the donor and egg donation program we have become parents because few months later our son Gareth was born.
IVF with donor eggs – pregnancy after 50
I have never felt more alive. We didn’t think too much about the name, we just looked at our boy and Gareth seemed perfect. It was not without difficulties, but we are parents again, we are a family. We would never have thought that an IVF egg donation program, and in Ukraine of all places, could save our marriage and make a mother out of a woman in her 50s.
Some might say that it was brave of us, but let me tell you, wasn’t bravery that gave us Gareth, but trust. Trust in the clinic, in a very beautiful country and its capital Kyiv, trust in the wonderful doctors and staff. And finally, the trust regained between my husband and me. The whole egg donation program cost around 7000 EUR (with hotels and flights included), but for the feeling of starting a new life, you can’t really put a price on that.