Saskia ' Interview 41

Age at interview: 38
Brief Outline: Saskia and her lesbian partner had IVF with donor sperm to have their two daughters. Saskia started treatment at age 33.
Background: Saskia is a teacher. She is in a civil partnership with her lesbian partner, and they have two daughters. Ethnic background' White British.

More about me...

Saskia and her partner, a lesbian couple, wanted to start a family. They initially did not want an anonymous donor and went on a course for gay people thinking of co-parenting to find out more. They tried for a few months with a gay couple they met on the course, but it did not work out. They also tried with an old friend, but that did not work out either. So after three years of trying they decided to go to a fertility clinic and try with anonymous donor sperm. After counselling Saskia started on IUI but after 10 rounds they decided to go for IVF treatment. Their first IVF cycle was successful and their first daughter was born. For their second daughter they tried a frozen transfer, which did not work. Their second cycle of IVF ended in a miscarriage, but the third was successful and their second daughter was three months at the time of the interview. 

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Saskia and her partner went privately as their local Trust would not fund treatment for lesbian...

And once you, firstly how did you find the clinic. How did you decide where to go?
Oh I’m trying to think. I think we, I sent for a few brochures from different clinics and looked on line and somebody had some good things about [hospital]. Well I think it had good statistics. I think I’d look at live birth rate, I mean something very raw. I thought that’s great, and it’s our nearest. And was kind of so delighted that our nearest one seemed good, I just sort of plumped for it. I didn’t do a lot of proper research. 
I think, had the first consultation not gone well I think I would have thought hang on, I’m going to shop around a bit. But at that point I didn’t know anyone else who’d done it, so the internet was the only sort of source. And I think I’d read a couple of positive things about it.
So would you have been able to get NHS treatment, IVF treatment? As a lesbian couple, did you investigate that?
I asked the consultant, and he said that there were some [PCT’s] at that time, I think Islington or Harringay, something like that, he said did give lesbians IVF treatment, but our one didn’t. And I’d assumed they wouldn’t so that wasn’t, that wasn’t a surprise. So..
So you knew that you were signing up for private treatment if you decided to do this?
Yes, I was hoping I could get anything corrective done on the NHS. That was my original thought. That if there was something wrong I’d get that corrected. But then if it came to IVF I’d have, or IUI I’d have to pay for it. And you know, I was happy, happy to do that. 
Because you know I’d rather go without a holiday and pay for… you know, it was a priority, it wasn’t something I felt entitled to. Or… anything.

Saskia and her lesbian partner went through 10 IUI cycles with donor sperm before moving on to IVF.

And then we had, we started IUI and we had – they said we will do six. Because they did a few tests and everything seemed fine. So they said, “Let’s do six IUI’s and see how we go. If they don’t work then let’s think then about IVF. And on the sixth IUI there was some evidence of being some implantation. It was a very low HCG level and that then made me feel more confident that things weren’t blocked, that thing’s weren’t, you know, that it could happen. So they said, “Well let’s do another six.” 
I mean at every stage they gave me lots of choice. It wasn’t, but six, another six sounds good and we did another four. So we’d done ten in all. And I think I just became dispirited. I thought that’s enough. Let’s do IVF. Because it’s really expensive you know, if you do ten, you start getting to thinking well we could have done a couple of IVFs. So we said let’s do the IVF. And they were really supportive about that. There was no sense that they were… I never felt they were pushing me one way or another. But if I said to them, “What would you do if you were me?” They would often, they would say. But at the end of the day it’s our choice.
And the IUI’s you did them in six months. Did you do them in six months on the trot or …?
They wouldn’t let you. They made you have a month off in between. I always suspected that was for mental reasons rather than physical reasons I think, but I would have been much happier just doing that. And, a couple of times they gave me Clomiphene, a couple of times I grew some little cysts and they made me have another month off which is awful. I hated, I hated the months off. They drove me more mad than the months of doing it. I would have been really happy to do… and it’s my understanding as well if you did six in a year you raised your chance of I don’t know, ovarian cancer, some, some, it was some health risk, but at the time I was just thinking I want to get pregnant. And I want to get pregnant now. That was my main… 
So I used to pester them into letting me not have months off and I think when I grew the cysts, I said, “Well let’s do it without the Clomiphene then.” So I think a couple of those six were done without the stimulating drugs.
Were they happy to do that?
Yes, I mean they said, “It’s less likely to happen.” And I said, “Well not less likely then not trying.” Because I mean in a lesbian relationship you’re not going to accidentally get pregnant in the month off. So, you know, and I felt that I was getting older, and also I’m impatient anyway. And wanted to get on with it.
So yes, they were pretty good at advising but then going along with what, but most of the time I think it coincided with what they thought. 
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Saskia describes how her IVF cycle for her second daughter didn't feel right through the first...

When we got that first, I mean the second IVF, when I got the positive pregnancy test and it was all fine, you know, I’d got proper hormone levels. It all looked great and I was very suspicious, I couldn’t believe my luck. I couldn’t believe it had happened perfectly the second time and I didn’t feel pregnant, whereas the time I’d fell pregnant, I’d had loads of pregnancy symptoms straight away. And I didn’t with that one. I felt very suspicious. I can’t put my finger on it. So when we had the scan, and it didn’t look good. I think I can only add I suspected something was funny and I was kind of, well it sounds funny. 
I went in every other day for about a week and that was a really long week. But it kind of, we gradually realised things were going not well. It wasn’t….
So it wasn’t that, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t I don’t think as bad in a funny way as a flat negative. I can’t really explain why. And the fact that it had implanted and all that made me feel quite positive about the next time. You know, and then it worked the next time, so it wasn’t…. Well may be I’m kind of forgetting how sad it was. Because I do remember crying. I do remember being really upset. But then that’s how I was with all the negative ones, so I don’t think, I don’t think it was that much worse than a negative, even though obviously I’d had the initial positive, but ….

Saskia and her lesbian partner tried an informal arrangement with a gay couple and then a friend....

And we went to a course which was for any gay person thinking of co- parenting and we actually met a couple of men on that course. A gay couple. And we got friendly and we built up a friendship over a few months, and we said, “Well let’s do it together.” 
So we tried with them for quite a few months. And it didn’t work. It didn’t work. And we fell out with them about a year into it. They, we found out about a health issue that the Father had. And we were upset, not really about the issue, but the fact that he hadn’t said anything about it. And it’s hereditary and it just created a bad feeling, and I think, I don’t know if it was waiting to happen this thing, but anyway, so we stopped that and thought. “Oh dear, let’s ask somebody we know. Let’s… We know some lovely men let’s ask.” 
And so an old friend of mine said he’d help out and he’d got his own family and he wasn’t interested in being a Father, but he was really happy to be, you know, at a distance and meet the child, but just not, you know, the odd photo every now and again, but not more than that.
And so we tried with him. And it just didn’t work. And he lived quite far away so logistically it was… and so in the end. And there were a few other things. I think we started to go off the idea of having somebody else involved and started warming more to the idea of the anonymous donor. 
And so we thought we needed to go to clinic. We needed to do it properly. And maybe there was something wrong, which is why it hasn’t happened.
So I think it was about 2003 that we went. So we’d sort of tried for three years, I mean not every month, because it just didn’t work like that because of the logistics. But for three years nothing had happened and it was, you know, quite emotionally draining and traumatic and all the rest of it. 
And so I went to the clinic in 2003 and it was my understanding that I could only be treated as a single person at that time. I couldn’t, we weren’t going to be treated as a couple. And it was also my understanding that I wouldn’t necessarily get treatment. That we’d have to demonstrate certain things, that we had male role models and there’d be certain sort of judgements, you know, we’d have to say the right things and what have you. I didn’t think it was a sure thing that we’d be able to have it. 

It was relatively easy for Saskia to combine work and appointments because her clinic was nearby...

Well they were great, because the unit opened at seven and the doctor [name] was brilliant at seeing, I would see her, because I think if you didn’t ask for a doctor you just had whoever was on scanning duty that morning. And she was just lovely and it was just really nice to always have the same… anyway, so you’d go at seven and you could be out by quarter past seven. 
I worked ten minutes away from it so I’d drive there do it, drive to work. All done and dusted. I had to get up a bit earlier but apart from that it couldn’t have been easier, and then the actually procedure, the insemination would only be one afternoon every couple of months. So… I could just say I had a medical appointment or, that wasn’t a big deal. So that’s pretty easy to manage.

Saskia did a lot of research online, for her own peace of mind.

And how did you do your research?
Internet. A lot of internet stuff and discussing with friends later on who I knew were having IVF. And one of them was as neurotic as me, and was doing loads and loads of internet research. So I think we both drove each other mad with too much information. But yes…
Did you feel that it was too much information?
I’m not sure we… I think we were just doing it for our own peace of mind, finding out, I don’t think it affected the decisions that were made and I think had we had no information we probably would have gone down the same routes, but for our own peace of mind we had to be sure of the decisions that the doctors were making and that we were choosing to do were the right ones.
But that’s done like, that’s what I’m like with everything, not just to confined to any medical things or other choices. I like a lot of information.
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