Claire Coombs, 30, and her husband Richy, 38, from South Wales were very keen to start a family, but Richy had had a vasectomy 12 years ago after having two children with a previous partner. In theory, a solution seemed simple: a small operation to reverse the vasectomy. But it turned out that in Richy’s case it would be much more complicated. The best solution, said a consultant at the London Women’s Clinic Wales, would be a procedure called TESE, in which sperm is extracted surgically from the testicles. Egg-sharing, added the consultant, might help with the costs of this difficult procedure.
I had not heard of egg sharing before and at first I was a bit hesitant with so many factors to consider. What if the woman receiving my eggs gets pregnant and I don’t? What if I don’t produce enough eggs? How do I feel about another woman sharing my eggs with me?
But, quite quickly I realised that this was a very special opportunity for me and another woman to realise what we both wanted so much - and actually the fact that I could help someone else get pregnant really spurred me on.
All our friends seemed in favour, and we had our first appointment with the clinic on Richie’s birthday in April 2010. It only took a couple of months after the first blood tests to find a recipient, and so we were ready to go. After the stimulation cycle and egg collection, I produced a total of 27 eggs, 13 of which were allocated to the recipient. With my remaining 14 eggs and the defrosted sperm retrieved in Richy’s TESE operation, we went on to produce two good quality embryos and one was implanted into my womb.
“ The best possible thing we could do was just continue our lives quite normally and take each day as it came”
It was a strange time. While our close family and friends were aware of what we were going through, work colleagues and other people had no idea and it was hard not to say anything. But we knew that the best possible thing we could do was just continue our lives quite normally and take each day as it came.
And so we waited… and in September, on my birthday this time, I found out I was pregnant. It was the most wonderful feeling, but even at that point there was still one nag at the back of my mind - had it been successful for the other woman? So, when I rang the nurse at the LWC to tell her the good news I tentatively asked and thankfully was told that the recipient was also pregnant, which made me doubly happy. I do know that she had been looking for a donor match for some time, so she must have been overjoyed.
After a relatively straightforward pregnancy, Jasmyn was born in May weighing just over eight pounds. She was beautiful and I couldn’t have been happier. When it came to choosing a middle name, there emerged a clear frontrunner for both Richy and me. We had to call her Faith! It truly represented the journey we had been on to get to that day.
It is now almost a year on and I often wonder how the other woman is getting on with her baby. It is a strange thing not to know who she is or any of her circumstances, but I’m fine with that. I’ve always believed that everyone has the right to have a child and I am very proud to have shared something so special with someone else, even though she will always remain a stranger to me.
The experience had its highs and lows along the way of course. Richy and I have learnt valuable lessons in how to support each other and stay really positive. We’ve never talked so much together, that’s for sure, and our marriage is definitely all the better for it. There have been times when I’ve worried that it wouldn’t work and how I would cope with that. But equally, I knew there would always be further options open to us and that knowledge always gave me strength.
The big high of course is getting to see Jasmyn wake up every day. And when she is old enough to understand, we’ll tell her the truth, and how special her arrival into this world has been. And we still have the other embryo on ice, which is amazing. We really didn’t expect to be able to have another baby, but Richy and I already have plans to try next year.