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
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!