the great­est gift: one woman’s Christ­mas mir­a­cle

More than £20,000 and years of heartache, but for Gail Rus­sell it was all worth it

Woman (UK) - - Contents -

As my son, Lewis, gazes ex­cit­edly at the sparkly Christ­mas tree lights and drives his lit­tle toy trac­tor through our mini na­tiv­ity scene, I have to shake my head and re­mind my­self that, yes, this is all very real. This year marks my third Christ­mas as a mum, al­though, iron­i­cally, I feel like an ex­cited lit­tle child when I think about watch­ing my boy tear­ing open his presents and tuck­ing into his

turkey – be­cause it’s a sight I thought I’d never see.

I’d al­ways been so sure that chil­dren were in my fu­ture. But in my early twen­ties, I’d been far too fo­cused on a ca­reer in graphic de­sign to con­sider meet­ing a man, let alone get­ting preg­nant. Yet, by the time I was 30, while friends had started to set­tle down, get mar­ried and have fam­i­lies of their own, I was still sin­gle. As I watched them all dote on their new­borns, I felt a pang of envy. That’s what I wanted, and it’s not like I hadn’t tried. I’d signed up to dat­ing agen­cies, and ac­cepted of­fers from friends to set me up on blind dates, but there was no-one I felt a con­nec­tion with.

As time passed, I be­came very aware that my body clock wouldn’t wait around for me to find a man, so just af­ter my 34th birth­day, I made a de­ci­sion. I started re­search­ing fer­til­ity treat­ments on­line and fi­nally de­cided to try in­trauter­ine in­sem­i­na­tion. It meant donor sperm would be trans­ferred into my uterus while I was ovu­lat­ing, in the hope that I would fall preg­nant.

Us­ing sav­ings, I paid the £1,600 fee, and in Jan­uary 2008, I headed to the clinic for

the pro­ce­dure. I was told to wait two weeks be­fore tak­ing a preg­nancy test, with a doc­tor warn­ing me the odds were low – just a 15% chance of suc­cess.

The next 14 days were ag­o­nis­ing, and even though I tried not to get my hopes up, when the test came back neg­a­tive, I was dev­as­tated.

Two months later I did the same pro­ce­dure again, but that failed too. Dis­traught, I made the de­ci­sion to move to Ire­land, to be nearer to my mum, Phil.

shar­ing the truth

I’d de­cided not to tell any­one about my fer­til­ity treat­ment – be­ing fiercely in­de­pen­dent meant I pre­ferred to deal with emo­tional is­sues pri­vately, but a few months af­ter re­lo­cat­ing, I ad­mit­ted ev­ery­thing to Mum.

She was shocked but sup­port­ive – she knew how des­per­ate I was to have a baby. For the next three years I stayed in Ire­land, work­ing from my home of­fice. But I was lonely, and I missed my friends. I knew I had to put my hap­pi­ness first so I de­cided to move back to Colch­ester, which also meant I could pur­sue more fer­til­ity treat­ment at the clinic I trusted.

By now, I was 39 and I knew my op­por­tu­nity to be­come a mother was slowly slip­ping away from me. In des­per­a­tion, I paid for three more IUI treat­ments, each cost­ing an­other £1,600, but again, they all failed.

Each month when my pe­riod came, I felt as though I was in mourn­ing. My body was aching for a baby, so the grief I ex­pe­ri­enced was over­whelm­ing.

Feel­ing low, I started look­ing into the adop­tion process and even con­sid­ered giv­ing up my job so I could move to Africa and vol­un­teer to work at an or­phan­age.

To re­as­sure my­self I’d con­sid­ered ev­ery op­tion, I headed back to the fer­til­ity clinic to have one last con­sul­ta­tion about my sit­u­a­tion. Doc­tors told me the best chance of get­ting preg­nant would be through IVF – us­ing donor sperm and a donor egg.

It meant that, bi­o­log­i­cally, the baby wouldn’t be mine, but I didn’t care any more. I’d still get to carry my baby, and the fact we wouldn’t share any DNA wouldn’t make any dif­fer­ence to how much I would love them.

The pro­ce­dure would cost around £15,000 – the last of my sav­ings. The next step was to pick out an egg donor and a sperm donor. I chose donors with char­ac­ter­is­tics sim­i­lar to my own – blue eyes and light brown hair – so my baby would look more like me.

The last chance

Then, in April 2016, aged 43, I made my way to the clinic for the trans­fer. It took all of 30 min­utes to im­plant the fer­tilised egg into my uterus and, af­ter some time to re­cover, I was on my way back home.

Once again, I had to wait two weeks be­fore tak­ing a preg­nancy test, and when I started hav­ing pe­riod pains around 12 days in, I felt all my hopes ebbing away.

Even so, when the fort­night was up, I woke early and took a test. Mum was over from Ire­land to visit, and I wanted to do it while she was still asleep so I’d have time to come to terms with the re­sult.

Only, as I sat on the edge of the bath, with the test in my hand, I looked in dis­be­lief as I saw two lines slowly ap­pear. It was pos­i­tive.

Sob­bing with joy as qui­etly as I could, I crept back into my bed­room to com­pose my­self. And as soon as I heard my mum stir­ring, I rushed into her room, wrap­ping my arms around her. ‘Al­right, Nanny?’ I said, with a beam­ing smile on my face. As we cried to­gether on the bed, the feel­ing of pure hap­pi­ness was over­whelm­ing.

At 20 weeks, I found out I was hav­ing a boy, and years of des­per­ate long­ing meant I’d al­ready picked out names. As he kicked away in my tummy, I knew Lewis would suit him per­fectly.

Due to my age, I was mon­i­tored closely through­out my preg­nancy, and at 39 weeks, doc­tors de­cided the safest op­tion was for me to have a Cae­sarean. Lewis was born at 7.46pm on Christ­mas Eve, weigh­ing in at 5lb 14oz.

My bun­dle of joy

As a mid­wife wrapped him in a blan­ket and placed him on my chest, I fell in love with him straight away. I knew it didn’t mat­ter that he might not have my nose, or the same colour hair – he was mine, and that was all I cared about.

We spent our first Christ­mas in hos­pi­tal be­fore be­ing dis­charged on 27 De­cem­ber 27. Mum came to stay with me for a few months as I set­tled into life as a sin­gle mum, but in all hon­esty, look­ing back, the whole thing is just a happy, joy­ous blur.

Lewis is al­most two now, and he’s fi­nally at the age where he’s get­ting ex­cited about Christ­mas. This year, he’s hop­ing Santa will bring him some more toy cars and trac­tors for his col­lec­tion.

Look­ing back, the price I’ve paid to get here is sig­nif­i­cant, both fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally, but it all pales into in­signif­i­cance when I think about the pure joy my beau­ti­ful lit­tle boy has brought into my life.

‘My body was Aching for A baby’

He’s brought joy to his grandma Phil and mum gail

gail with her lit­tle Christ­mas mir­a­cle

Lewis can expe lots of present this Christ­mas!

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