What would you sacrifice just to have a baby? Having a baby cost Louise Gilbert her £30,000 and her marriage but she says it’s worth it.
The Mirror UK reports that after being told she would never be able to have children of her own, Louise had spent almost £30,000 on gruelling IVF treatment.
And the emotional cost was just as great… two decades of heartache over each failed attempt, three miscarriages and, finally, the loss of her childhood sweetheart after their relationship was wrecked by her desperate quest to become a mum.
Yet looking down at her beautiful daughter, Louise, 39, knew all the pain and sacrifice had finally paid off.
“My little girl had cost me my husband and nearly £30,000,” she explains. “But as I held her, all I could think of was, ‘at last’. She was worth every penny and every moment of heartache.”
Louise, from Sandhurst, Berkshire, had given up hope of having a child when her marriage to first husband Tim broke down in 2004. She set about changing her life and started her own business. But then she met a new love, Mark, who persuaded her to give IVF one more try.
In July 2012, Louise’s dreams finally came true when she gave birth to baby Sofia. But reaching that point had been a long, painful journey. Louise was just 14 when she met her first husband, Tim. “He was my first and only serious boyfriend and when I was 19 we started trying for a baby,” she says.
“I’d always wanted to have a big family and to start having kids when I was still young.”
But within a year, her dreams of motherhood were snatched away.
“When I failed to get pregnant I went to my doctor and was eventually referred to a gynaecologist.”
Tests revealed that Louise was going through the menopause. “I was stunned,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m a teenager, how could this be possible?’”
Then a scan showed Louise had already stopped producing eggs and was actually post-menopausal.
“I was devastated,” she says. “Tim tried to comfort me but I just sobbed. Having kids was all I’d ever wanted and now I’d never be able to have a child of my own.
“I struggled to come to terms with it all and went into a deep depression. I even started to lose my hair due to the stress.
“After a while I started looking into IVF and egg donation – but the NHS waiting list was years long and that only depressed me even more.
“But Tim was my rock. He pulled me through and I eventually started to feel positive again.”
The couple tied the knot in 1999 and Louise says: “As we made our marriage vows we also promised each other not to give up on having a family and decided to try IVF.
“We weren’t eligible for funding on the NHS so we re-mortgaged the house and organised local fund raising events to help pay for it.”
As Louise was not producing eggs she needed a donor, so she placed an appeal in a magazine. “Quite a lot of women got in touch and one woman agreed to donate,” she says. “I was over the moon.”
In 2001, Louise started treatment at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. After just one cycle of IVF, tests revealed she was pregnant with twins.
“It felt like a miracle,” Louise says. But five weeks later she lost one of the twins and, just over a month later, she miscarried the other baby.
“I felt so cheated,” Louise says. “I’d put myself through all of that and it had just been taken away from me.
“I felt angry. It wasn’t like doing normal IVF. It meant finding another donor. Tim and I were both devastated.”
But the couple refused to give up and went through a second round of IVF, bringing the total cost to £8,000.
When that didn’t work they tried an egg sharing scheme at the Midland Fertility Clinic in Aldridge, West Midlands.
The couple paid £10,000 for the treatment, which involved another woman donating half of her eggs to Louise in return for free IVF treatment.
“They only managed to get one egg and before I’d even had the treatment they told me they didn’t think it would work,” Louise says. “We’d paid all that money and had nothing.”
It was around this time that cracks started to appear in their marriage. “We were arguing all the time,” Louise says. “Having IVF really put pressure on our relationship.
“We were worried about money and couldn’t afford to do nice things as a couple. Friends were getting pregnant around me, which was the hardest thing ever.
“Not having a baby just highlighted our other difficulties. We’d been together since we were kids and at that age we didn’t know any different. We were very different people as we grew up that started to show.
“We wanted different things and had started to grow apart.”
In 2004, the couple decided to separate. “We just sat down and agreed it was for the best,” Louise says.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make but our marriage was over.
“It was an awful time. I’d lost my husband and my only chance of being a mum.”
Eventually, though, Louise started to put her life back together.
“I started taking care of myself for a change instead of just focusing on trying to have a baby and looking after my husband,” she says.
“I joined a gym and lost three-and-a-half stone.
“I got new friends and started going out. I’d never even been to a club. I just started enjoying life.”
Louise also set up her own mobile hairdressing business and met the brother of one of her clients, Mark Gilbert.
The pair became friends and, a year later, became a couple. They moved in together and, after dating for a year, Mark proposed in May 2010. But it wasn’t just marriage he was proposing.
Louise explains: “He said, ‘I love you and I want to marry you. And I think we should try for a baby’.
“I wasn’t sure about it because of all the things I’d gone through with Tim, it made me very vulnerable, I didn’t want to go back to that place again.”
But after a client mentioned a clinic in Marbella in Spain, she changed her mind. “Her colleague had had a baby after treatment there and they had a really high success rate” she says.
“I talked it over with Mark and we decided to give it one last go, but we decided to wait until after the wedding.”
The couple were married in May 2011 and six months later they flew out to Spain, paying £10,000 for the treatment and eggs.
“Everything was so much more relaxed this time,” says Louise, who gave up her job to focus on getting pregnant. “We were hundreds of miles from home so I was able to focus solely on what we were doing and staying positive.”
Louise discovered she was pregnant with twins a week after returning home: “Even though I was excited, I was also petrified because I’d already had a multiple pregnancy and lost the babies – I knew the risks.”
And just 10 weeks into her pregnancy, history tragically repeated itself when Louise lost one of the twins. “I was inconsolable,” she says.
“I was a nervous wreck for the rest of my pregnancy. Even when I had a massive belly and she was kicking me, I still didn’t believe I’d have a baby.”
After almost two decades of trying, Louise finally became a mum when she gave birth to Sofia on July 5, 2012.
“When they handed her to me, it was very surreal. It felt like someone else’s baby. Only when I held her in my arms did I believe she was mine,” she says. “Mark was amazing. We couldn’t stop crying.”
Mark says: “It was my first time so I didn’t have any of those bad memories of losing children but I knew what Louise had been through. It was a really special moment.”
She calls Sofia her ‘little miracle girl’. “I wished I’d known about the clinic in Spain earlier,” she says. “If we could find the money, we’d go back to give Sofia a little brother or sister.