Woman, 43, who underwent 11 IVF treatments in five years delivers baby girl after flying to South Africa to obtain a donor egg
- Emma Pugh, 43, and husband Darren tried to naturally conceive for 6 months
- Then found out they had unexplained infertility and began trying with IVF
- After years of failed attempts, specialist suggested they use a donor egg instead
- The Queensland midwife finally had success after going to a South Africa clinic
After 16 years of blissful happiness as they travelled the world together, marriage and children felt like the logical next step for Emma and Darren Pugh.
But the couple had no idea when they began that their journey to parenthood would take five years, 11 rounds of IVF and plenty of heartbreak in between.
Emma, 43, had always believed she would become a mother.
The Queensland midwife and child health nurse had helped women deliver their own babies for 16 years.
Emma never imagined it would be so difficult when her turn finally came.
‘I assumed that I would have a large deal of control over when the time came to make a baby,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘But this was all taken out of my hands.’
After trying natural methods for six months, Emma and Darren, 42, went to see a fertility specialist.
That’s when the couple found out they had unexplained infertility, an even more frustrating diagnosis because they had no idea what problem they needed to fix.
‘The only thing that was mentioned was my egg quality might not be so good due to the fact of my older maternal age,’ Emma said.
‘But, unfortunately, egg quality can’t be tested – so nobody really knows.’
Emma was referred to IVF and at first she believed the couple would have instant success.
‘I was so naive,’ she said. ‘I really thought it would work on the first attempt, they would put two eggs back in and I would have twins and live happily ever after.’
‘I was living in a bubble, and little did I know how hard it is to conceive a baby through IVF.’
But Emma would soon find out that IVF was the hardest, and most disappointing, thing she would ever go through.
All in all, the couple went through 11 cycles of IVF over the course of five years, spending thousands of dollars and feeling more isolated after each failed attempt.
‘You go through feelings of hope when you are waiting to do a pregnancy test after the two-week wait, and then despair because it has failed again,’ Emma said.
‘I started distancing myself from friends as I was just so sick of repeating myself and saying it had failed again.’
‘We were using every available cent towards IVF. I felt that we missed out on the last five years of our lives.’
Making the entire experience even worse was the fact that Emma had two chemical pregnancies, meaning she had both a positive blood test and urine test.
‘It is similar to a very early miscarriage, and absolutely heartbreaking,’ Emma explained.
‘I called my husband and mother feeling so happy and excited, thinking “Yes, I’m pregnant.”‘
‘And then the despair set in when the urine tests slowly got lighter and lighter and eventually no pregnancy was detected.’
Emma began feeling desperate. She couldn’t help but feel robbed after bringing so many other women’s babies into the world, but being denied one of her own.
After seeing three different specialists in Australia, one finally suggested using a donor egg.
But, at first, Emma didn’t like the idea of having her child come from an egg that was not her own.
‘I remember being horrified at first, thinking this baby would not feel like mine,’ she said.
‘I was scared that I would not bond and the baby would feel like somebody else’s.’
But Emma’s thoughts changed after her mother sent her an article that discussed how donor egg babies still take on some of their birth mother’s genetics.
The couple decided they would go to South Africa to have the donor egg implanted after finding a clinic with high success rates for matured-aged women.
Emma began taking medication to match her cycle to her donor’s and then she and Darren set off for what would become 12 surprisingly relaxing days in South Africa.
‘I felt so positive throughout the whole cycle,’ she said.
‘It did not feel like an IVF cycle, the clinic was not as medicalised as previous clinics I had used and we had a fabulous holiday too.’
The couple explored the country, visiting wineries, trying the food, shopping and having plenty of massages.
‘I really think my positive attitude and peace of mind certainly helped me to relax and helped with this pregnancy,’ Emma added.
When they returned to Australia, it was time for the couple to play the nervewracking waiting game.
‘I was told to take a pregnancy test after 10 days, but I think everyone in this game knows that we test everyday as we become paranoid,’ Emma said.
The doubt and despair began to set in as each test came back negative – until the tenth day.
Emma couldn’t help but feel elated, but still a cloud of apprehension hung as she waited to make sure it wasn’t another chemical pregnancy.
‘I did multiple consecutive blood tests and my HCG levels were rising significantly and I knew then that I could relax,’ she said.
After 13 weeks the happy couple finally began to share their good news with friends and family.
And, after an uneventful and easy pregnancy, Emma delivered Esme Ruth by Cesarean section on March 6.
It was love at first sight for the new mum.
‘I have bonded with her like no other,’ Emma said. ‘My baby is all mine. She even has some of my characteristics already.’
‘I absolutely love motherhood,’ she added. ‘I know what people mean now when they say they have that deep connection to their child.’
‘I am enjoying every second with her and I am so blessed to have her in my life.’
Emma has since written a book, 11 Times A Baby, that details her incredible journey and encourages women to freeze their eggs earlier.
‘It bares the truth of the whole experience,’ she said.
‘The excitement followed by the disappointments and the tolls on relationships and friendships.’
And, of course, the very happy ending.