Lesbian couple open up about carrying each other's babies using IVF
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A lesbian couple has opened up about the 'mad process' of carrying each other's babies using IVF.
Emily Patrick, 38, and her partner, Kerry Osbourne, 35, hadn't really spoken 'too much' about having children prior to lockdown but, in September 2021, they embarked upon their unique fertility journey together.
The soon-to-be mums, who have documented the process on Instagram under the ultra adorable handle of @twomumstwobuns, are due to give birth to each other's child in the New Year just one month after the other.
Tyla spoke to Emily all about the process, how she and Kerry found out reciprocal IVF was even a thing and their biggest highs and lows throughout.
Emily said: "We always thought it'd be nice to carry each other's babies but never knew if it was an actual thing or not because you don't really hear about it much."
However, during lockdown, the pair did a 'little bit of research' and found out about reciprocal IVF which allows both women to participate in the pregnancy.
One woman supplies her eggs, retrieved and fertilised by donated sperm in IVF, with the resulting embryo(s) implanted into her partner for pregnancy.
"We both wanted to be part of the process as such," Emily explained, "we wanted to do it close together."
After that, they began looking into fertility and IVF clinics to check out the price which they found was 'bloody expensive'.
Emily, who is due on 4 January, and Kerry, who is due on the leap year on 29 February, wanted both their babies to have the same biological donor. So, they had to buy multiple sperm vials and pay the clinic for ongoing storage costs, as well as a six-month 'family slot' at £200 each to ensure that they are not ruled out of further treatments due to the 'maximum of 10 families' legislation for sperm donors.
A family slot must be purchased at clinics along with donor sperm or eggs which gives you the right to use donated gametes in your treatment.
Once all 10 family slots have been met for a donor, they cannot donate to any new families and any remaining samples in inventory will only be available to one of the existing 10 families. This is because the current laws state that a sperm donor can only be used to create up to 10 families
Emily and Kerry also had to pay £1,000 for blood tests that included CMV testing (a virus that can cause complications for babies) - which is only investigated when using donor sperm, and their clinic connections enabled them to have 'VIP access' to a sperm bank in the US.
Having the same biological donor was a 'necessity' for the couple as they believed it would make the bond 'a lot stronger' if the siblings were 'related'.
Emily recalled: "When you're going to be doing it [IVF] at the same time, you're looking through hundreds of sperm donors - there's no reason why you wouldn't pick the same one anyway because that one's obviously ticked all the boxes."
The pair didn't go through the NHS and instead opted for a private clinic as the NHS does not cover reciprocal IVF and opened up about how navigating the costs was a 'bit of a minefield'.
She did, however, acknowledge that she and Kerry were lucky as they are 'financially OK'.
The whole process took roughly two years so, in the meantime, Emily says, they were still earning money so nothing came as a huge 'lump sum'.
So, what was the total cost?
Well, Emily tells Tyla: "We always had in our heads, it would be about £10,000 for a baby and we always hoped, obviously, that it would be a little bit less.
"I think, realistically, it's come to about £10,000 but we haven't done all of the maths.
"It wasn't like £10,000 coming out at once so that was it was kind of nice. It was like just paying it off slowly."
She admitted that she didn't want to think 'too much' about the cost of it as it makes her feel 'a little bit sick', adding: "That's £20,000 between two people. That's like a deposit for a house!"
So, apart from the steep cost, were there any other lows regarding the IVF journey?
Emily explains: "Well, when they say that IVF is a rollercoaster and you're like, 'It can't be that bad'.
"It really is. You've got really low moments."
Such moments included getting tested for cancer and three operations getting polyps in her womb removed.
She revealed: "Until you have that initial scan, you really don't know what your womb's doing. So that was quite a low."
Another low was looking for a donor which Emily jokingly refers to as 'like Tinder but for the sperm donor of your child'.
"It's really tricky," the expecting mother added, pointing out the importance of agreeing on the right fit with Kerry.
With that said, however, there's been a whole bunch of highs throughout the journey.
"When we were having the embryos made up after our egg collections, it was really amazing that we had a really good number of embryos and eggs and stuff like that," Emily noted.
"We were both really lucky, to be honest. Like, I got pregnant first time, which is really mad," she continued, while Kerry got pregnant on the second cycle of IVF which was 'still really good' considering some people try for 'years and years and years'.
"It's a mad process," Emily added.
Emily also offered some advice to other couples looking into IVF.
She suggested: "I think you've just got to go into it really open-minded and be like, 'You know, it might work, it might not work. What are, you know, what are our backup plans if it, it doesn't work?'"
She also emphasised the importance of being prepared: "It's not a fun journey - all of the time.
"Just be aware that, you've got to be mentally strong quite a lot of the way through it."
Now just a few weeks away from giving birth, Emily says both she and Kerry 'would not have done it any other way'.
Talking about being each other's support while both going through the same thing, she told Tyla: "Because we are on the same journey and we're doing it at the same time, we really understand what the other person's going through."
The pair have since done a gender reveal and were pretty surprised to find out they were having two beautiful baby boys, which they 'did not expect at all'.
"Two boys is going to be chaos," Emily laughed.
Tyla also spoke to Fertility Expert and Fertility Mapper founder Kayleigh Hartigan who shared some pretty fascinating insights into accessing IVF in the UK and the various difficulties people like Emily and Kerry are facing with the process regarding cost transparency with fertility clinics.
Fertility Mapper is a community-powered review platform - think Tripadvisor for fertility clinics.
Kayleigh explained that fertility and IVF services are not 'well covered' by the NHS and got into a little more detail about what is known as the 'postcode lottery' when it comes to accessing such services.
"The NHS makes decisions on what is and is not covered, or paid for, on a regional level and then on a basis of a number of factors about the person," she said.
Such factors, in the UK, include if you have a child from a previous relationship, as the NHS will not pay for your fertility treatment for such individuals.
Kayleigh continued: "It's actually 73 percent of all NHS regions, which are called ICBS, won't pay for your IVF if you have a living child from a previous relationship.
"So what that means is that increasingly, over the last 10 years, the NHS pays for less and less and less treatments. So it's now less than 30 percent that the NHS will fund."
The fertility expert explained that, because of this, fertility services are 'very much like a private healthcare market in the UK, for the majority of people'.
Kayleigh explains that there are 'two parts' people should consider when they're thinking about fertility treatment - the cost and the experience.
She said: "Typically people are going through multiple rounds, it's a really invasive process. It's not something that you do and then you do it again the next month.
"You normally take quite a bit of time off in between, either for emotional or physical reasons and so, actually, people can be going through this process for a very long time over many years."
This is why Kayleigh highlights the importance of finding a clinic partner, that is going to be 'supportive throughout that period of time' as they're going to be a 'really important part of your life'.
She added: "It's like picking a school or university, I guess, you're gonna be like there for a while so really making sure you're happy with your choice is important."
You can find out more about the NHS Fertility Funding Calculator here.