Sin­gle mum’s heart­break: My IVF ba­bies will be or­phans

Sa­man­tha McCon­nell spent £15,000 on IVF to be­come a sin­gle mum, but af­ter just five short years, she was given a tragic di­ag­no­sis…

Best - - CONTENTS - To do­nate to Sa­man­tha’s chil­dren, visit: just­giv­ing. com/crowd­fund­ing/ grace and rory

For ages, I longed to be a mother, to have a tiny per­son to nur­ture and cher­ish. So, when I de­cided to have IVF and have two chil­dren alone, I knew I’d give them ev­ery­thing I had, that I’d love them enough for two par­ents.

But while I was ready – prac­ti­cally, fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally – for my ba­bies, some­thing hap­pened I could never have pre­pared for.

Two months ago, I was di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal cancer and given just weeks to live.

I’m leav­ing my beloved daugh­ter and son as or­phans. The mere thought of it is break­ing my heart.

Be­ing a sin­gle mum wasn’t my first choice. But when I hit 38 and dis­cussed hav­ing a fam­ily with my part­ner of nearly a decade, he con­fessed that, hav­ing al­ready had two chil­dren from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship, he didn’t want more.

Faced with the prospect of not hav­ing a fam­ily, I re­alised how much I wanted one. To fall preg­nant, give birth, the whole she­bang… So, we split up.

Know­ing I couldn’t hang about for Mr Right, I looked into adop­tion, but it was a lengthy process.

Then, I came across the Euro­pean Sperm Bank in Den­mark. They pro­vided a picture of the donor and a voice record­ing to pass on to any chil­dren con­ceived.

I paid £2,000 for sperm from a 35-year-old med­i­cal stu­dent. Luck­ily, I’d worked in the RAF for 20 years and could af­ford the hefty fees.

In May 2010, I had three at­tempts at IUI – where they placed the sperm in­side my uterus. Although I tried to keep my feel­ings in check, I was dev­as­tated when the at­tempts failed.

I moved on to IVF, a more in­va­sive treat­ment where my egg was fer­tilised with sperm in a lab­o­ra­tory be­fore be­ing re­placed in­side me.

Af­ter my first try, two healthy em­bryos were im­planted and I also had five frozen ones to use in the fu­ture.

I was on a break in Tus­cany, Italy, to cel­e­brate my 40th birth­day when I sus­pected I might be preg­nant. Every time I passed some­one smok­ing, my stom­ach turned.

I was too scared to hope, and even a pos­i­tive preg­nancy test didn’t con­vince me. In fact, it took four!

I had ter­ri­ble morn­ing sick­ness and a trau­matic labour in De­cem­ber 2012, but none of that mat­tered when I

first held my daugh­ter, Grace.

Back at our Lin­coln home, no heaps of dirty nap­pies or long sleep­less nights could tar­nish my ex­cite­ment. Moth­er­hood was ev­ery­thing I’d hoped it would be and more.

Grace was two when I de­cided to give her a sib­ling. Both of my par­ents and my sis­ter had passed away and, with­out a fa­ther, she’d need all the fam­ily I could give her.

I’d hoped I might have met some­one by then, but my fo­cus had been on Grace rather than dat­ing.

I re­turned to the clinic in De­cem­ber 2015 and was soon preg­nant again.

Grace was de­lighted, read­ing sto­ries and singing to my bump. When I wel­comed Rory into the world in Au­gust 2016, I felt the same rush of love. My ba­bies had come with a £15,000 price tag, but they were worth it.

As any par­ent knows, jug­gling two chil­dren can be tir­ing, so when I de­vel­oped chest pains in Au­gust this year, I as­sumed I was run down.

It faded, only to be re­placed by a sick­ness bug. Tired and itchy the week af­ter that, I was wor­ried enough to call my doctor.

They took blood tests but fur­ther stab­bing pains led to me be­ing ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal. Af­ter an ul­tra-sound and MRI scan, a doctor ap­proached with a box of tis­sues.

‘There’s a mass around your liver and lungs,’ he said.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned… ‘Love with all your heart, for as long as you can.’ I have al­ready held a ‘wake’ to say good­bye to my friends and fam­ily

They couldn’t di­ag­nose me un­til I’d un­der­gone more tests, but they were pretty sure it was pan­cre­atic cancer.

When I found my voice, I asked about treat­ment. But the doctor shook his head.

‘It’s too ad­vanced,’ he said. ‘I’d start mak­ing a will.’

His words left me ter­ri­fied, I started scrib­bling words on a nap­kin be­fore a solic­i­tor could come out the next day.

And while I had the pen in my hand, I also started writ­ing let­ters to Grace and Rory, ex­plain­ing how much I loved them. I never wanted to leave you so soon.

When the re­sults came back, the prog­no­sis was ter­ri­ble. At 46, I was given only six to eight weeks to live.

The hard­est thing I’ve ever done was to tell Grace. ‘I don’t want you to die,’ she said. ‘Nei­ther do I,’ I whis­pered.

She rubbed my hand. ‘ Will that help the cancer go away?’ she asked. When I shook my head, she pointed to a trol­ley full of tablets. ‘ What about medicine?’

‘It won’t work, dar­ling,’ I told her gen­tly.

Rory’s just two years old. He doesn’t fully un­der­stand, but he knows some­thing is wrong. I spend hours cud­dling him, mak­ing sure he feels com­forted, pro­tected, for as long as I can. Not want­ing Grace and Rory to go through the trauma of a fu­neral, last month I held a ‘wake’ to say good­bye to my friends and my fam­ily. I wore a bright pink wig and a floaty kaf­tan. More than 100 peo­ple turned up.

My cousin and her hus­band are go­ing to look af­ter Grace and Rory. I can’t bear the thought of them for­get­ting me. Along with count­less let­ters, I’ve filled mem­ory boxes and had teddy bears made out of my clothes for them to cud­dle.

I’ve even recorded my­self read­ing bed­time sto­ries and singing lul­la­bies.

While other peo­ple tell their loved ones to think of them when they see a robin or a white feather, I’ve told Grace and Rory that when they get an itchy nose, it’ll be me.

My fu­ture is so un­cer­tain now, and I may not be here when you’re read­ing this, but I do know my love for Grace and Rory will never die.

Sa­man­tha has writ­ten let­ters and cards for Grace and Rory to trea­sure

Mak­ing mem­o­ries: a day trip for Sa­man­tha and her chil­dren Sa­man­tha con­ceived Rory and Grace against all odds

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.