Today we are speaking to Leah Black on her journey to becoming a mother. We will be discussing her fertility journey of IUI and IVF and also her amazing decision to donate her eggs.
Eve: Do you want to start by telling us a little bit about your family?
Leah: My name is Leah and I’m 30 years old. My husband Kevan is originally from Liverpool. We met when I was working in a pub and got married a couple of years later. We knew we wanted to have a family and seven years down the line we had still had no luck. That’s where our journey started, after a couple of years of trying we knew something wasn’t right and wanted to know what was the problem.
Eve: So you now have two beautiful girls! Twins called Hallie and Harlow. I would love to hear more about that.
Leah: We had a chat with our doctor about our options and he referred us to the assisted reproductive unit here in Jersey. We only have one hospital on the island! They started doing tests and small operations to see if there was anything wrong. They tested my husband’s sperm as well but they couldn’t pinpoint the issue. So, we began with the basic clomiphene tablets which you take to boost your ovulation and help to conceive. We tried this for a year and it didn’t work. We then introduced a trigger shot that you take to make you ovulate. It’s one injection and then they tell you to try but it again didn’t work. We then moved on to treatments like IUI which is a step down for IVF. We can’t do IVF in Jersey as we don’t have the facilities or the doctors. The doctors were certain we didn’t need IVF as there was nothing specifically wrong with either of us and I had plenty of eggs.
Eve: What’s the process of IUI?
Leah: So, all of the medication is similar to IVF but with IVF your eggs are removed and fertilised with the sperm in a lab. Whereas with IUI, they don’t take the eggs out of the women, they just take the sperm and insert it near the egg. It is very similar to a smear test feeling. It kinda gives a boost for the sperm.
Eve: How many rounds of that did you do?
Leah: I think I did about 8 or 10. You can try every cycle.
Eve: Gosh that must have been so intense emotionally to have to go through it that many times and every single month.
Leah: Yeah, the hard part is when each month you think your pregnant. I started almost making up symptoms in my head, like oh my boobs are hurting but then I’d go and take the test and it would be negative. Its honestly shattering and I became a shell of the person I was before I started trying. It got the point where I said it’s just not working and I can’t keep doing this. I said to the consultant that enough is enough, I need to do IVF. We don’t have the NHS in Jersey so we would have to fund it all ourselves, including the flights and hotels to London.
Eve: How many rounds of IVF did you need?
Leah: I was finally lucky and got pregnant on my first round. I remember the day so well. With the treatment, I retired 29 eggs which is massive and I actually decided donated half of these. I thought if I could help someone who is going through the same pain as me then I had too. So, I ended up with 14 eggs and 6 of those were fertilised and we ended up transferring two back – the highest-grade embryo and the lowest-grade as I wanted it the eggs to transfer through me regardless as I didn’t like the idea of them just being thrown in the bin. One of these ended up being one of my girls so it was pretty crazy to think they were willing to discard of that embryo.
Eve: How long was it after you had your first round of IVF to know you were pregnant?
Leah: They tell you to wait about 10 days to two weeks before doing a test. I got to day 4 and couldn’t sleep; it was 4am on a Sunday and I took a test and it was positive! I put the test down thinking it won’t be positive, like there’s just no way. I ran up to my husband and turned the lights on and shouted I am pregnant!! We just cried for hours.
Eve: How did you know you were pregnant with twins?
Leah: After the 10 days you have to go into the clinic to have your bloods taken. My levels were really high so they knew I was definitely pregnant. I had an early scan at 7/8 weeks but at about 6 weeks I began to bleed. My husband took me into hospital and scanned me straight away and without the doctor even saying anything I looked at the screen and said we are having twins! The doctor said there are two sacks but don’t get your hopes up as they haven’t formed yet. Technically they weren’t even a baby yet. At my next scan we saw we had two babies in there! I knew it was a possibility but I didn’t think it would have happened.
Eve: it is actually amazing that you tried for so long and then two bundles of joy appeared. I think it was fate!
Leah: Me too! Looking back now, I could never understand why I wasn’t given the blessing of being a mum but now I know my girls weren’t ready for me just yet.
Eve: It was your path! Did they ever find out why you couldn’t have kids naturally?
Leah: Never. Our consultant says our case just blows his mind as everything with both of us was great.
Eve: What advice would you have for other women who are going through the same thing?
Leah: My main advice would be to talk to people. At the beginning I kept it all in and I thought I could handle it but I really couldn’t. This is how my Instagram started as I wanted to find people who were going through the same thing. There are a lot more people than you think who are going through it.
Eve: You’ve probably also found so many friends and support bubbles even through it.
Leah: I’ve met some of my closest friend through going IVF. They have become my rocks! I know I was very lucky for my 1st IVF to work and know so many who are on their 4th or 5th and my heart breaks for them. I know how hard it is and my advice is just to try to talk about it as much as you can; my dms on Instagram are always open.
Eve: I know you said before you donated your eggs, what was your decision for doing that?
Leah: We’d always thought about it. It’s the same process as IUI and I knew that I was creating quite a lot each month. They asked me when I went to the IVF clinic in London if I was interested in it and offered me a reduced IVF if I were to donate my eggs. It would mean that my IVF would only be half of the cost. It was a big decision, I had to have counselling and it was quite brutal come to think of it. I had to write a letter to my potential future children and a note about why I decided to donate them for a future family so they could match them accordingly.
Eve: Do you know if they have been used?
Leah: I contacted the clinic after the girls were born to find out and the 15 eggs that I donated were split between two couples. Unfortunately, none of them were successful. When I found that out I cried because I was sad for those couples but I was also relieved on my side and maybe it was for the best as I would have spent my life wondering about them.
Eve: It’s sort of bittersweet in a way.
Leah: There was an agreement that I had to sign that from the age of 18, if the child wanted to come and see me, they could.
Eve: Gosh what a massive but amazing decision.
Leah: I wish I could have helped another family out and stop another person feeling the pain I felt.
Eve: It’s an amazing story. How was your pregnancy with the girls – were you more anxious?
Leah: Definitely, but I was so lucky with my pregnancy, it was a breeze! I was definitely worried as I wanted them so badly. I had a C section for the girls so knew what day they were coming and I was out of hospital in 2 days.
Eve: What is the main mantra you live your life by and why?
Leah: I think after everything I went through mentally for those 7 years, I want to just live my life for my girls and show them how to be strong. I wasn’t and I can admit that. My husband even when my girls were born was like I finally feel like I have my wife back. It made me realise I was lost for so long and a shell of the person I used to be. Now I want to be happy for my girls and show them not to crumble when life gets hard. No one is perfect and I would hate for them to grow up thinking they have to be a certain way.