A woman who has spent 12 years and £30,000 trying to have a baby – enduring the loss of three premature babies – says she is still determined to become a mum.
Jade and Andrew Barton met as teenagers and are desperate to become parents.
But their efforts to conceive have been hampered by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a hormonal condition making natural conception difficult.
Jade, 32, also has an incompetent cervix, meaning that it shortens and opens during pregnancy before it should – causing premature birth.
Tests showed Jade was not releasing any eggs, and medication to stimulate ovulation failed to work after six months.
She had cysts removed from her ovaries and, when she was still failing to ovulate by the end of 2012, her doctors advised her to try IVF.
The couple, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, then discovered there was no NHS funding for couples under the age of 30 for IVF in their area at that point.
They have since had four successful and one unsuccessful round of IVF – just one of which was NHS-funded – remortgaging their house and receiving financial help from loved ones.
Jade said: “I have always said, from the beginning, that while the pain of not having a family is still more than the pain of everything we are going through with IVF, I will continue to try.”
The couple’s first round of IVF produced 21 eggs, but Jade’s ovaries were overstimulated and she ended up in hospital for a week.
Six of the eggs were viable and two were transferred, but Jade miscarried the day before her first scan.
She said: “It was the first positive pregnancy test I’d ever had, but it was all over before it had begun.
“We thought, maybe, because we had two eggs, that was the problem, so the next time we tried with one but did not fall pregnant at all.”
A year later they tried again with the remaining three embryos but failed to conceive.
In 2017, the couple borrowed £12,000 from friends and family to pay for three rounds of IVF with a private company that offered a full refund if they didn’t fall pregnant.
From eight embryos they had two transfers but Jade miscarried both times at seven weeks.
After an ultrasound scan failed to detect any reason for her miscarriages, she tried again with another embryo and had another positive pregnancy test.
The couple were “cautiously optimistic” but tragedy followed.
Jade said: “We went for our 12-week scan and everything looked fine, but then at 17 weeks I went into labour and Riley was born sleeping.”
The couple spent four days with the baby they had lost, before holding a heartbreaking funeral.
Further investigations revealed that Jade had an incompetent cervix, which according to miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth charity Tommy’s happens when the cervix shortens and opens in the second trimester.
Refusing to give up, the couple tried again with their two remaining embryos in February 2019 and, when they did not conceive, they had another attempt – this time having the embryos genetically tested to try and minimise the risk of miscarriage.
This time she had three more transfers but no pregnancies.
She said: “We’d basically taken a massive gamble and it hadn’t paid off. We had one round of IVF left, but no embryos in the freezer. ”
Jade and Andrew re-mortgaged their home and in January this year, the couple tried again – this time with Jade producing 53 eggs and being hospitalised once more for overstimulating.
Twenty-four embryos were frozen – with two being transferred in April.
Jade’s six-week scan revealed two babies but at 14 weeks doctors found her cervix had started to shorten again.
A cervical stitch was put in to close it but at 20 weeks, Jade’s waters broke. She was given antibiotics but the stitch had become infected and had to be removed.
Doctors said her little boy, George, was unlikely to survive, because he had no water and his lungs would not be strong enough.
Jade and Andrew hoped to get to 24 weeks to give his sister, Amelia, the best chance of survival.
But at 22 weeks she went into labour and the twins were born on August 15 – George at 1.01am and Amelia at 1.21am.
Jade said: “We got to kiss and cuddle both of them, but there was no chance, they were just too tiny. Amelia weighed 360g and George 404g, so doctors would not have been able to get a breathing tube into them.
“They both lived for about an hour and died with me cuddling them.”
Despite their heartbreak, Jade and Andrew’s message to would-be parents remains not to give up hope.
And with 22 embryos remaining, they refuse to give up on their dream of having a family.
Jade said: “I would tell other people going through something similar that it’s important to talk to people and get advice, but that, inevitably, only you will know when you’re ready to give up. You know what’s right for you in your heart.
“It is draining physically and emotionally and it’s easy for it to consume you, but you have to try not to let it and to take care of each other and your relationship.
“We’ve had lots of support from social media groups and chatted to people who have had losses as we have, as well as to people who it has worked out for. Baby charities like Tommy’s, SANDS, and SiMBA, which makes memory boxes, have also been really supportive.”
Jade’s sister Nicola Meredith launched a GoFundMe page to raise £2,000 for the twins’ funeral, but they have now made more than £2,600 and are donating any extra funds to the Butterfly Suite at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital.
The suite is a special place where families can spend time with the babies they have lost.
“The compassion and care we received from the midwives was amazing and I can’t stress enough how outstanding the Butterfly Suite is,” said Jade. “We want to thank everyone who has donated so far.
“Sometimes I just wish that feeling of wanting to be a mum and have a family would go away.”
“But I want to be a mum more than anything. We will keep trying until I can’t take anymore”