Forces family Ann and Mike, from Derbyshire, explain how after the painful loss of their daughter and discovering a rare genetic condition, they have just enjoyed their first Christmas with their baby son Liam.
Mike is a reservist in the Mercian Regiment, D Company (Burton) and has served for 21 years.
“After meeting five years ago, we were eager to start a family as soon as possible due to our ages. Both 35, we felt there was no time for delay,” explains Ann.
“Unfortunately, after trying to conceive for some time tests revealed I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I was given six rounds of Clomid, a medication used to treat infertility in women who don’t ovulate. It seemed to work and we were delighted when I became pregnant.
But it was not a simple pregnancy for Ann and she experienced complications.
“When I gave birth in September 2017 our beautiful baby daughter Lilian died after only a few hours as her lungs had not developed properly. We were shocked beyond words and wanted to know why this had happened,” says Ann.
“We learnt that Lilian had a rare genetic condition called Myotonic Dystrophy, which affects muscle function and worsens with each generation. Tests revealed that both I and my 78-year-old dad have carried the defective gene but with no idea.”
Consultants advised the couple that IVF was their only hope of having a healthy baby.
“Due to my genetic condition, we were able to apply for three rounds of NHS IVF treatment. So, because we were now closer to 40 and despite the overwhelming sadness, we decided to start treatment,” she adds.
“When doing our research, looking at success rates, particularly for our age group, we decided to be treated at Nurture Fertility. We had already been put in touch with them at the hospital and they knew about our case and crucially had no waiting list.”
The couple also researched PGT-M (also called PGD), an embryo biopsy test which is performed during the IVF process, to identify if an embryo is healthy or has a specific genetic disorder and found that Nurture Fertility’s sister clinic, Oxford Fertility, offered the treatment.
“Their expertise, combined with its location, in the same building as the PGD team, and not far from my work at Sky TV in London, made our decision to be treated by Nurture Fertility for the majority of our treatment plus egg collection, PGD and embryo transfer at Oxford Fertility easy,” says Ann.
After many months of ups and downs and lots of support from Oxford Fertility, Ann and Mike were delighted to finally have a positive pregnancy test.
“At the seven and then 12-week scan everything seemed to be normal and healthy which was above and beyond all our expectations. From then on, we were looked after by Nurture Fertility’s satellite clinic in Burton-on-Trent, a few miles from our home, which reduced stress and travel time considerably. We underwent extra screening and tests to make sure the baby was healthy and were relieved when everything came back clear.
Mike was then given the opportunity to join a second Op Tosca tour. Despite mixed opinions from family and friends on leaving Ann in the early stages of her pregnancy the couple talked about it and decided the benefits of going were important. Ann fully supported Mike and they had already experienced the tour five years previously so decided to go for it, especially as Ann had passed the 16-week mark and they were feeling more confident.
“I was relieved to be able to keep in close contact with Ann. It was hard to be apart but the internet was good and I had access to my mobile phone,” says Mike.
Ann started to bleed at 35 weeks, and it was urgently decided to deliver by c-section.
“Mike got compassionate leave and made it back to the UK just in time. I learnt later that they had cleared the whole operating theatre for the day preparing for a difficult and dangerous birth. Although I did lose blood I was brilliantly looked after and came through it.
“Liam was born healthy on 1 July 2020 and we could not believe how against all the odds and with the painful loss of Lilian we now held our beautiful son in our arms. We will never forget Lilian or how it was because of her short life that we learnt about my condition and were able with amazing advances in PGD and the skill of the teams at Oxford Fertility and Nurture Fertility to have a healthy child. Our family is complete and we’re so happy. Words are not enough to thank everyone involved.”
Mike and Ann would like to thank the military community who offered help and support throughout their difficult journey to become parents including 7 RIFLES as well as Mike’s own regiment.
Unfortunately, COVID has meant that baby Liam has not met his extended family yet, but they’re hoping that they can meet soon.
Mike is now helping with the COVID vaccination process, so the family are adapting to new routines. After the last five years they’re in a good position to handle whatever life throws at them next!