Fertility treatment comes at a huge cost. Here  Emily Saunders speaks honestly about the complexity of emotions that come from having to make a decision about whether to give your child a sibling, based on the financial implications.

**Author Disclaimer: I am under no illusion about how lucky I am. I have been the woman longing for a child, thinking it would never happen. I understand that feeling of desperation. I know that there are many women who will be going through the below having not yet conceived their first child. I count my lucky stars every day that we have Alfie. I don’t think that consideration of a 2nd child via IVF is spoken about much and so I just wanted to share our thought process.**

  • Alfie was conceived using IVF in 2015. We weren’t eligible for NHS treatment due to my husband already having an older son. Craig had a vasectomy during his first marriage, and then a reversal when he met me. I was fortunate enogh to have a large PPI payout which helped us to fund our first round of IVF.

  • When we started looking at fertility treatment 2 and a half years later we also discovered that I had a low egg reserve so between us we were never going to be able to conceive naturally.

  • We were lucky enough to fall pregnant with Alfie on our first cycle! We only had two successful embryos and we implanted both so had none to freeze. One of our embryos failed and Alfie was the other one. 

  • When Alfie was born in January 2016 I was convinced my child bearing days were over. 

  • Despite what felt like a pretty perfect pregnancy I felt absolutely no broodiness at all and the thought of an ‘easy’ second round of IVF was completely off the table due to having no reserve embryos.

  • Whenever anyone asked me if I wanted to have another child, the answer was an unquestionable “No!”. 

  • Fast forward 2 years and our little boy turned 2, my cousins had a gorgeous baby boy and some of my NCT friends announced their 2nd pregnancies…all of a sudden my broodiness kicked back in.

  • The more that we talked about it the more we realised that actually the idea of another baby was something that we both felt really positive about, it was something that all of a sudden we both really wanted….a lot!

  • I come from a planning background so when making a decision I naturally start thinking about it logistically first. 

    • I considered the finances, both of the treatment and the cost of living afterwards. Treatment, I knew wouldn’t be cheap but we could look at egg sharing which most clinics offer you a discounted cycle for….and are 2 babies that much more expensive than one?!

    •  I looked at whether our childminder offered sibling discount. She did!

    • I had a meeting with our business partner to brainstorm how my maternity leave (or lack thereof) would impact the company. When I had Alfie I had 4 weeks leave and then he came to the office with me and I worked from home meaning that I was still entitled to my salary.

    • I considered the layout of our bedrooms and where a baby would fit in the house. The chance to decorate another nursery!

  • And when all that had been considered we decided that we would book an appointment at our local fertility centre to discuss the options. We definitely wanted another baby.

  • We had previously had our treatment at the Lister Clinic in London (highly recommended!) but for the initial stages at least we decided to have our appointments at the Care Clinic in Northampton. I had my blood work done to check my FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and Craig had some tests and then we had a consultation with one of the doctors.

  • The good news was that it was completely viable for us to have a 2nd round of IVF! My levels had surprisingly increased since our last round.

  • The bad news was that the scar tissue from Craigs vasectomy reversal had healed over meaning that an additional procedure would be required prior to the cycle. This basically involved sticking a needle into Craig to withdraw the swimmers that were left! 

  • Although Craig looked sick as a dog at the idea he was willing to go through with it – God, he must love me A LOT!!

  • The problem was this added a significant and unaccounted for amount of money to our final bill. We had estimated a bill of approximately £6k but with this and the amount of drugs I would need to stimulate my hormones we were looking at 5 figures instead of 6.

  • The doctor gave us a mountain of paperwork and forms, a 40% chance of success, a treatment plan and sent us home with a list of follow up appointments to make in order to begin round 2.

  • At home that evening we talked….and talked…and talked some more. 

  • 40% chance of success is really good odds in fertility speak (for my age range the average is 17 – 24%) but that also left us with a huge 60% chance of failure. 

  • The decision making then had to become ‘head or heart?’

  • Over the years we have got ourselves in our fair share of credit card debt and so our monthly outgoings are pretty substantial but whilst the money was not impossible to come by it would mean taking a large portion of our savings which is earmarked for a house deposit one day. 

  • We certainly couldn’t afford the option of having multiple cycles, we would be putting all our eggs in one basket – literally!

  • But what if we had the treatment, then our landlord put our house on the market and we couldn’t afford the deposit to buy it (our long term plan). We would have to move, either with one child or if our cycle had been a success, 2! Houses in our village are hard to come by and I have dreams of staying here for a long time to come. 

  • What if the treatment didn’t work? That was £10,000 effectively down the drain! We’d have no money and no 2nd baby.

  • Would we then we start to resent each other, silently blaming the other one for the failure. I like to think our marriage is a very strong one, we’ve been through our share of challenges but would this be the one to break us?

  • What financial security could we offer Alfie (or even a 2nd child) with our savings depleted? 

  • We had been so incredibly lucky with our first cycle of IVF working with Alfie, surely no-one is that lucky 2nd time round?!

  • Yes we would love another child and for Alfie to have a sibling at home to grow up with but will our lives be any worse off if that wasn’t the case? No, they wouldn’t. 

  • My heart is already full to bursting with Alfie in it, it will not be any less so without a 2nd baby.

  • In the crudest sense we had to consider the option of trying for a 2nd baby as if it were a financial transaction. Could we afford it? Did we need it? How would it impact our future?

  • And in this case Head won over Heart.

  • I realise by re-reading the above it sounds so cold and unemotional. 

  • Trust me when I say that wasn’t the case. My heart was sad. I cried for the baby that we would never have. The baby that would complete our family and fill our house with even more love. 

  • I felt guilty that I had to be so pragmatic in our decision for a child. 

  • I felt guilty that by wanting another child it would seem that Alfie is not enough when that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

  • Do people go through this when they can conceive naturally, I wondered?  There’s got to be an element of this thought process surely? How will we afford another baby, I guess they just don’t have the £10,000 deposit to start with!

  • It’s been hard, we had prematurely got excited and had started to imagine what life would be like with two children at home. I know that secretly Craig would have loved a daughter.  

  • But we are blessed with one…one very incredible one who keeps us on our toes, makes us smile every day and who we could not love more than we do.

  • It is now a little over a year since we made the decision not to go through with our 2nd round of IVF.

  • Since that time Alfie unexpectedly underwent Open Heart Surgery at Great Ormond Street and now I wonder how on earth I would have coped with the stress and worry while being pregnant or having a new born.

  • Alfie has needed our complete focus and devotion these last 6 months since his operation and I am thankful we have been able to give it to him. 

  • And as he grows into a proper little boy who is heading to pre-school this year our house seems even more full of love than ever and not once have I felt there was something missing.

  • I am proud of Craig and I for reaching our decision with a sensible mind and actually feel that it has made us even stronger for it.

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  • Reply Cheshiremum February 25, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing, we are currently heading towards a bank breaking IVF for our hopefully second child… I think for us we just want to give it a shot and if it doesn’t work then we can never look back and say what if, we can say we have it our best chance, and hopefully that will be worth the financial strain it may but us under

  • Reply Sam March 1, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    That was a great read, thank you for sharing. We had one fresh cycle (successful) and one frozen (also successful). It was obviously a lot less money having a frozen cycle and we felt we needed to give it a go but I do think we would have had to have a long think if we’d have had to do another fresh cycle due to the expense.

  • Reply Hannah March 1, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    This was a really emotional read. We’re in the same position. We are lucky enough to have a much-wanted nearly three year old daughter, but would love another baby. However, we’re also moving house, meaning a larger mortgage and potentially expensive work to do. It feels so wrong that we have to make a decision about whether to grow our family purely based on whether we can afford it. It’s all quite raw at the moment and I find myself feeling a bit ‘it’s not fair’ about it all! But I hope soon we’ll be able to reach the point of clarity that you have got to, so thank you. It’s really good to read about someone in the same boat.

  • Reply Nicola March 3, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I’m in a slightly different position as I’m a single parent desperately wanting another. I have thought lots about doing IVF for a second but it’s so unaffordable (especially on one income). So I could relate to a lot of this!

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