With the UK half term now over, Holly Willoughby, 39 and Phillip Schofield, 58, returned to ITV’s This Morning on Monday after taking a break.…
We grow up, fall in love, have kids and live happily ever after. But sadly, that fairy tale is fiction for thousands.
One woman who knows the heart-breaking reality of this is executive assistant Nicola Fletcher, 36, from Sidcup, South East London.
In 2013, her and now-husband Marc, 38, started trying to a baby.
After a year Nicola hadn’t fallen pregnant so they decided to try IVF.
Now, five and a half years later and after four miscarriages, £125K and the tragic death of their twin boys, Charlie and Ellis, Nicola remains positive, strong and refuses to give up on her chance at motherhood.
Here she tells her story…
“From early on in our relationship Marc and I were very open about wanting kids. My brother’s got children, and my sister in law has kids too so it seemed very natural to us.
After we’d been together for three years, bought our own home and done it up, we decided the next step was to try for a baby.
We always knew it may not be easy. I’ve struggled with thyroid problems and Marc said he’d always ‘had a feeling’ something may be wrong so we weren’t too surprised when after 12 months we hadn’t been successful.
It was frustrating but as we found ourselves sat in the hospital talking about IVF I was determined not to give up.
Thankfully we were eligible to go on the NHS for treatment.
I’ve got low egg reserves and natural killer-cells, which means my body tends to fight everything off, so if I did have a natural pregnancy my body would instantly reject it thinking it was a foreign body.
Marc also has anti-sperm antibodies, which means his sperm clumps up.
Put them together and it’s very hard for us to get pregnant.
As a couple, the news that we couldn’t have a child naturally was hard to take, especially when your friends are having their first and second, or even going onto their third kid.
I know it’s selfish but I couldn’t help thinking ‘Why’s it so easy for you?’
You only get 12 tries in a year so it felt like we were running out of time.
We were put on the NHS waiting list but as it was over a year, during that time we went and got treatment done privately.
It cost us £9K and was successful, which felt amazing, but at eight weeks, as I sat on the loo at work, I felt a huge gush and realised I has miscarried.
I burst out crying.
No one at work knew I was trying to have a baby or going through IVF but I just ran to the girl who is my ‘buddy’ told her what had happened and drove straight to the clinic.
It was a blur. I rang Marc in hysterics while on the M25 and when we were tested they confirmed we had lost it.
After that I didn’t let myself get excited again.
I felt a huge gush and realised I has miscarried.
Our second treatment was then on the NHS. It was successful but at six weeks that gut- wrenching feeling happened again and I miscarried.
But I was determined not to be defeated.
After endless hours of research I then found a clinic which did the Chicago Test.
This offered a more thorough look at why it wasn’t working for us, and had two rounds of treatment.
It cost £12k each time and both rounds resulted in no implantation.
I was heartbroken that we’d saved all our money, said no to nights out and hadn’t even thought about a holiday but still had no baby.
We continued to try though.
I got a discount through work for treatment at The Lister Hospital in Chelsea. It still cost £15K a go, but we had an incredible doctor who changed things up and I fell pregnant with the fifth round of IVF.
At the six-week scan the baby was happy, healthy and had a heartbeat but at nine weeks we had another scan and the heart had stopped.
I was put under general anaesthetic and had the baby taken out. It wasn’t a straight forward procedure as my placenta had hardened so I was there all day and was very bruised when I came to.
I felt empty, emotionally drained and the heartbreak never got easier.
We then had another go with the Lister and fell pregnant again. But at 11 weeks I woke up at 4.30am and just knew in my heart the baby had died.
I said to Marc, ‘I think it’s gone’.
The next day, I wasn’t due a scan so paid to have one privately and I was right – there was no heartbeat so I had another operation to have the baby removed.
At the time my Dad was going through cancer as well.
He was diagnosed with a rare form of gall bladder cancer aged 58 and died three weeks after we lost this baby.
When we told him I was pregnant on New Year’s Eve he was very quiet. I think he knew he wouldn’t see this baby grow up but also didn’t want to get excited as we weren’t letting ourselves either.
I think the stress of seeing my dad deteriorate and watching my mum struggle to care for him single-handed probably played a part in me losing the fourth baby so after round six, we decided to give things a break.
Six months later, I was still determined so we flew to Greece and tried a clinic in Halkidiki. You'd think it’d be cheaper but it cost much the same.
We gave it two goes, but both times it failed to implant.
On the flight home from Greece Marc turned to me and said ‘I’ve had enough. I don’t want to talk about it for a few months.’ And I understood exactly what he meant.
It had consumed our whole lives for over four years and we’d lost our identity as a couple.
I didn’t bring it up for eight weeks but secretly I was already researching where to go next.
It became almost like an addiction.
When I told Marc I’d found a new clinic, he wasn’t surprised.
This time it was like IVF bootcamp.
We were there for three weeks having bloods and scans twice a day and the doctors were constantly changing my drug levels for a tailor-made treatment.
It costs £35k for one round of treatment so we’d taken out credit cards, used our last bit of savings and were also given money from our nans and parents because they knew how much it meant to us.
We told ourselves this was the final go.
And it worked!
On Valentine’s Day we found out I was four-weeks pregnant – it was twins. It was amazing.
It wasn’t plain sailing though.
At 8 weeks I had a huge bleed, rushed to hospital and was told I had a haematoma (blood clot) above one of the twins, they were thankfully fine though.
But after that I continued to have bleeds and the haematoma didn’t disappear.
At just over 16 weeks I felt another gush and thought it was another bleed but my waters had broken with the twin who also had the clot.
Surprisingly I didn’t go into labour, but was monitored weekly and the babies were growing well.
It was an incredible feeling to finally have my own baby in my arms
At 24 weeks I was at home when I suddenly got crippling stomach cramps.
I had a prolapsed cord which the doctors tried to fix but couldn’t, so within hours I was rushed in to have an emergency c-section.
All I remember about the birth is screaming ‘Are they alive?’ and I heard a ‘Yes’ before my twin boys, Charlie and Ellis, were rushed for emergency care in London’s St Thomas’.
I didn’t even see them.
Our son Charlie died after 10 hours. I hadn’t made it to his side but was able to see him once I got to the hospital the next morning.
Ellis weighed only 1lbs 7ounces but was very strong however, things took a turn when the nurses noticed he had a problem with his bowel.
It was basically dying so he had to have two operations to try and fix it.
Both times we were told he probably wouldn’t make it. Both times he fought and survived.
He was doing so well that we even got the chance to get him out of the incubator and give him a cuddle.
It was an incredible feeling to finally have my own baby in my arms and I was even able to give him a little bit of milk.
He was starting to come off all his meds but then the nurse spotted the same signs of his bowel problem again.
Twenty doctors and nurses came into the room. I was told this would be the last time I would hold him and words can’t describe the tears and pain of that moment.
Marc couldn’t even hold him, he was too heartbroken.
Amazingly, he was fine until he had an MRI scan days later.
We were told at some point Ellis' brain had been starved of oxygen and he was severely brain damaged.
Agonisingly, we decided that with no bowel and little brain function, that it would be no life for him.
After a couple of days we decided to take him off the drugs and machines and let him go.
We had him and Charlie buried with my Dad.
At the funeral we released butterflies and balloons – it was amazing and gave me the closure I needed.
Three months after that, one of my oldest friends Carly amazingly offered to be our surrogate and so we’ve decided to give that a chance.
She’s already had six boys, so we know she’s a pro when it comes to growing healthy babies but now we’re trying to raise £20k to fund it.
No child will ever replace the special part Charlie and Ellis have in my heart but I hope one day Marc and I can do the normal things all parents do, like go on family holidays, go to the park and watch our child grow up.
I still have hope and so does he.
Friends of Nicola and Marc have set up a GoFundMe page to help with their surrogacy journey, to make a donation click here.
This week we also told you about the woman who fell pregnant with TRIPLETS on her first date even though she was on the Pill.
And there's a heartbreaking story of how a woman held her husband of one-and-a-half years as he died in her arms in the doorway of their local hospital.
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