A blissfully happy Doncaster couple who thought they might never have children together are looking forward to the new year after a nine year battle to become parents.
Frankie and Andrew Stanley said it was ‘a dream come true’ after they were finally successful in their bid to start a family.
Their beautiful little girl Yasmin Lucy was born on August 18 after nine gruelling rounds of IVF.
After five failed IVF attempts the couple, from Kirk Sandall, Doncaster, ignored the advice of NHS fertility doctors and eventually conceived after undergoing controversial treatment alongside IVF for a rare autoimmune disease which Frankie, aged 39, believes prevented her from falling and staying pregnant.
She said: “Every year at special times like Christmas I would say to Andy,’I wonder if we will have our little baby next Christmas or next year,’
“This year I didn’t need to say that – we have everything we have ever wished for in Yasmin.”
Frankie said: “Our fertility journey began in the summer of 2008, 18 months after I qualified as a primary school teacher.
“We were due to marry in March of the following year and decided to start trying for a family before in case it took longer than expected. That was an understatement.”
After two years trying to conceive they went to the GP and underwent tests before being referred to Jessop Fertility at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.
Doctors found no obvious cause for their infertility so they embarked on conventional IVF.
Frankie said: “We almost wanted something to be wrong, so that it could be fixed and then we could move on and hopefully conceive.
“But how could the doctors fix what wasn’t broken?”
Their first failed IVF cycle was in December 2011.
Two embryos were transferred and the couple waited nervously to find out if the attempt had been successful.
Frankie said: “I was sure it would work and was devastated following the two-week wait to be told the cycle had failed.
“We were upset, but picked ourselves up ready for a second attempt.”
When their second cycle failed in June 2012, Frankie began to suspect there was more at play than bad luck.
She said: “I began to research alternative reasons for IVF failure and came across the story of Doncaster woman Julia Kantecki, who had struggled to begin a family and was given controversial steroids by a doctor in the US to help her conceive.”
Julia was treated by the late Dr Alan E Beer from San Francisco, a world famous infertility specialist.
He believed some women have an abnormal number of Natural Killer cells which mistake the embryo for a foreign body and destroy it before it has a chance to implant.
The same antibodies can cause autoimmune problems.
“Like Julia, I was also experiencing joint and muscle pain and recurrent mouth ulcers, which I was under investigation for by the rheumatology department at Doncaster Royal Infirmary,” said Frankie.
“I decided to ask for steroids during our next IVF cycle, but was told it was not possible."
She was given the drugs after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome – an autoimmune disease which attacks the body’s moisture glands and causes mouth ulcers, dry eyes, dry mouth, joint and muscle pain and extreme fatigue.
“I began to think that as my body was attacking me, it could also be attacking my embryos,” she said.
In September 2012 the Stanleys underwent their third cycle and although the embryo implanted it failed to survive – this is known as a chemical pregnancy.
Two futher IVF attempts failed after NHS medics refused to treat Frankie if she took additional autoimmune treatments during treatment.
“I began to feel very frustrated my pleas for more unconventional treatments were falling on deaf ears.”
So in April 2013, despite the additional cost, the couple decided to go to Sheffield’s private clinic Care Fertility in Nether Edge.
Frankie said: “I was worried about having to explain the whole history again, but to my amazement, it was the best consultation we had ever had.
“Finally, we felt we were talking to professionals who agreed with our opinions about the immune system’s role in causing our infertility and I walked out of the clinic feeling at last I was being listened to.”
Attempt number seven followed in December 2013, but sadly ended in a miscarriage.
Another failed attempt followed in July 2014, but determined not to give up Frankie continued to research alternative treatments.
In October last year the couple embarked on their ninth attempt at IVF.
As well as injecting all the conventional IVF drugs, Frankie had monthly £1,500 intravenous infusions of IVIG – an expensive blood product pooled from thousands of donors which neutralises NK cells.
The treatment was administered at the Fertility and Gynaecology Academy in London.
Frankie said: “Our test date was New Year’s Eve 2016 – so either way, it was going to be a day I would not forget.
“I was worried sick about the result. The worst thing was having to tell my parents, who had invested much of their retirement money into our treatment.
“On December 30 2016, I took the home pregnancy test a day early and waited with baited breath and my eyes shut. With sheer delight, I saw two very strong lines – apparently I was pregnant. We were thrilled, but incredibly scared because of our history and now we had a new worry – ‘was this baby viable?’.”
On August 18 Yasmin was delivered at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
Frankie said: “It was so emotional. We couldn’t believe that our baby was finally here. Overwhelmed with mixed emotions, we cuddled our baby girl, feeling humbled and blessed after such a heart-breaking journey.
“There were many dark days throughout those nine years and times when we questioned whether it would ever happen. You do what feels right in your heart and I ultimately felt I could and would eventually become a mum – it just took much longer than we ever anticipated.”
The couple hope by sharing their story they will help others in the same situation.
Frankie said: “The difficulty was finding a fertility clinic which was willing to support our beliefs.
“We will forever be indebted to our parents, Care Fertility, Sheffield, and The Fertility and Gynaecology Academy, London, for helping us achieve our dream. The words ‘thank you’ are simply not enough.”
Dr Adel Shaker medical director at Care Sheffield, said: “I am delighted Frankie and Andrew have finally had a successful treatment that led to the birth of their daughter Yasmin.
“They had several treatments before they came to us and endured a long road of many investigations and treatments.” This fabulous outcome is a testament to their dedication to complete their family.”