Our Bun, Her Oven – Tamsin’s Story

Our journey started in 2013,my relationship was starting to get serious and as a CF patient I wanted to know my options on becoming pregnant. Unfortunately, my consultant felt my lung function of around 50% was not good enough for him to recommend pregnancy for me. I was told that 50% is the usual cut off for safely becoming pregnant, as carrying a baby can put a lot of strain on the body, particularly on the lungs for as the baby grows it can compress them. I was told women not following this advice had sometimes led to tragic outcomes.

I then asked my CF team for my other options to have children but I was met with very few answers or choices. They were unable to advise me or give me any information on surrogacy or adoption for CF parents. Feeling hopeless, when I got home I turned to the internet and found the CF mothers website which had some useful information on surrogacy and adoption for CF women, as well as stories of CF women successfully experiencing surrogacy. These gave me hope for options for the future.

I then needed to tell my boyfriend that, before our relationship went further, he had to know that carrying a child was unlikely for me and that he needed to be accepting of other choices if we were to move forward. Fortunately I had a wonderful, understanding boyfriend who married me anyway.

After our wedding in July 2014 we decided to get going with planning a baby as we had read online it could be a long road. We had arrived at the decision to pursue surrogacy rather than risking my own health in pregnancy after I was diagnosed with a type of bug called Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM). The treatment for NTM is a minimum of a year of antibiotics that are not compatible with pregnancy. I’d also had a previous cervical cancer, and the treatment for it had required a part of my cervix to be removed which meant a higher chance of miscarriage. Combined with my lung function level, it seemed pregnancy was not to be. We will always consider adoption but first we wanted to try surrogacy. There is host surrogacy and traditional surrogacy, they differ in that in traditional surrogacy the surrogate donates her own egg but a host surrogate carries an embryo that biologically belongs the intended parents. As my eggs were healthy we chose host surrogacy- or as we describe it ‘our bun, her oven’.

The problem was we didn’t have a clue where to start. My husband thought the best way forward would be to write to the CF hospital doctors expressing our disappointment in the lack of options presented to us previously and asking for their help. We did not receive a reply, but on my next appointment with the consultant she told us of another patient under the hospital’s care who had successfully used a host surrogate. The doctor said she would pass on my details to her and see if she would be willing to contact me and offer her knowledge on how to get started. Then I got an email from an incredible lady, telling me her story and guiding me on how to go about the process. The biggest gift she gave me was advising me to join the private Facebook support forum run by the CF mothers website, which was full of inspirational and supportive women all trying to have children through pregnancy, surrogacy and adoption.

Our original plan was to meet a potential surrogate through one of the UK surrogacy agencies (Surrogacy UK or COTS). We joined the Surrogacy UK forum which offers a wealth of information and positive stories.  One of the forum members who lived in our area gave us a recommendation for a clinic she had used. We made an appointment to see a consultant who started us on fertility enhancing vitamins and booked my husband an appointment for semen analysis. We also needed to have blood tests and counselling before we could embark on any treatment. We decided at this point to check if my partner was a CF carrier and opted to use our private clinic for this to save time. 2 weeks later we got the good news that my husband test had come back negative. We also spent time understanding where we stood from a legal perspective by having an appointment with the fertility specialist solicitors, Natalie Gamble Associates which was really helpful.

Tamsin with Auntie who is Surrogate

Me with my Auntie and Surrogate

During this time, another CF Mum who had been through surrogacy gave me some helpful advice – that if you are public with friends and family about what you are doing you never know who may offer to be your surrogate. Being open with people was also a good choice for us as I found all the ‘when you are getting pregnant?’ questions after we got married hard to deal with. It also resulted in a friend offering to be our surrogate- which was amazing! The necessary appointments for blood tests and counselling were then booked for her but sadly a short while later her boyfriend changed his mind and the offer fell through.  However there was an unbelievable silver lining to this, my aunt saw our incredible disappointment at being let down and said she couldn’t risk it happen to us again, so she would be our surrogate. We were over the moon! She’d had 4 children of her own so was experienced in pregnancy and knowing our potential baby would be carried by a loving member of our family was a huge bonus to us.

The IVF process involved me having 2 weeks of injected hormones but this wasn’t painful and had no effect on my CF. The hormones increased my production of eggs and the doctors were extra careful I didn’t over stimulate as this could cause complications that a CF patient just doesn’t need. They then retrieved my eggs (under light sedation) before using the ICSI technique with my husband’s previously frozen sperm to create embryos which were monitored over the next few days. Finally we heard the news that we had 5 embryos of good enough quality to be frozen.

Us with the positive pregnancy test!

My aunt requested her transfer for August 2015, and she started tablets, injections, pessaries and hormone patches a month before. The transfer of one of our 5 frozen embryos was done on 31st August and we were given around a 50% chance of success. After a long 12 days wait we could do a pregnancy test… which was positive! This was followed by the confirmation of a heartbeat via ultrasound on 30th September. There really is no feeling like hearing that first tiny beat! In November we found out we were having a little girl and our daughter is due at the end of April 2016.

Tamsin Scan Photo

Our baby daughter!

It was a long and complicated process but thanks to my incredibly kind hearted aunt we have our dream baby on her way. Not carrying my own baby has at times caused me heartache but it has given me the time and ability to get my health at an optimum before her arrival. I hope my story helps other women with CF to see that it is possible to have a baby even if your health is not good enough to get pregnant.


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