A couple is crowdfunding for an IVF baby using a surrogate, after the devastating loss of three babies has left them terrified of trying again.
Kate Postlethwaite and Matt Walker are still determined to have a family.
The loss of the pregnancies was devastating, but not a surprise since Kate knew she had polycystic ovaries – causing irregular periods and often impaired fertility – so were stunned when she fell pregnant almost immediately in November 2016.
So, understandably they don't want to go through a similar tragedy again.
Kate Postlethwaite pregnant with her second child (PA Real Life/Collect)
Since deciding their only option of having a baby would be to use a surrogate, they have raised £16,500 (over $20,000 USD) – £12,000 borrowed from family and friends and the rest from their savings – to begin the process. And, if two rounds of IVF are needed, will cost another £10,000 (over $12,000 USD) they do not have.
“We want a family so much and with everything we've been through there's no way that either of us would have the emotional strength to go through that again."
“We can't put into words what it would mean to have a baby. I see people sharing pictures of their children online and they always say, 'My life is complete'. We feel like our life is in limbo. A child would make our world complete."
Kate Postlethwaite and Matt Walker (PA Real Life/Collect)
The couple started trying for a baby when Kate was 33, having built their own family home on the tiny island of Alderney after meeting through mutual friends. With a solid relationship, a beautiful home, and steady jobs, everything was in place for them to have a family and when she fell pregnant without a hitch they were in shock.
“We were so surprised but absolutely delighted," Kate said.
“The pregnancy was fine, I just had a scan at 12 weeks and 16 weeks because I had a bit of bleeding, but they told us it was okay. "We started getting the nursery ready and buying lots of things, then at the 20 week scan we found out he was a little boy. We named him Alfie. At the same time we found out he had severe arthrogryposis."
Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) is a collection of syndromes were causing the abnormal development of connective tissue in his joints, the couple faced a heartbreaking decision.
“AMC can be caused by hundreds of different things. It could have come from an infection during pregnancy. He was affected in all his joints."
Kate Postlethwaite (PA Real Life/Collect)
“By that point he was 22 weeks, so we didn't have long to make a decision. We did so much research about what it could mean for him. Had we continued the pregnancy, it would have meant him having no quality of life. He would have been very disabled and we didn't know what other problems he might have had."
“It was a horrible decision to have to make but the doctor's advice was a termination and we both decided we didn't want him to have a life of not being able to do what children or adults do. I couldn't imagine a world in which he would have been a happy person, so at 23 weeks we said goodbye to him."
Fearing it was a genetic issue, the couple consented for Alfie to have a full post-mortem, but the results were completely clear.
“They did such thorough testing, but there's still a question mark hanging over the whole thing," Kate said.
“That five months following the pregnancy and waiting for the results was the most difficult thing. Our lives were on hold. We knew we weren't going to try again until we at least had a result. Mentally and physically you have to get yourself together and it was horrible for both of us. Matt felt like he was unable to help me."
Kate Postlethwaite while pregnant with her second child (PA Real Life/Collect)
“It's not a feeling I would wish on my worst enemy. The trauma is unbelievable. When you get pregnant you never imagine the worst thing is going to happen," she recalled.
“You get past the 12-week scan and it feels like someone has handed you a certificate and told you, 'Congratulations you're going to have a baby.' We were naïve. I will never forget the moment we realized there was a problem. You go into this situation you never imagined you'd face, having to decide whether to have a cremation or a service."
“We got the results on Alfie's due date August 10, 2017. I think you try and look for signs and we saw that as closure and a way for us to be able to move forward," Kate continued.
The couple waited for a few months before trying again, swiftly finding out they were pregnant for a second time in November 2017. But instead of joy, they felt fear of something going wrong.
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“Throughout the second pregnancy there was just absolute terror. There were so many question marks and so many unknowns. We just wanted to try and get through it and have a healthy baby," Kate said.
Suffering with endometrial hyperplasia – a thickening of the lining of the uterus which causes bleeding in the cervix – Kate needed scans at six, eight, 10, 12 and 16 weeks, flying to Guernsey each time to stay on a maternity ward, due to the lack of facilities in Alderney.
“Our 20-week scan showed everything was fine. We were having another boy," she said.
“At that point we did feel a small sense of relief, but we were still aware that everything could be taken away so abruptly. There was never a moment where we thought, 'This is amazing, we're going to have a baby'."
Following a 30-week scan, which again showed no issues, a couple of days later Kate noticed her baby wasn't moving that much anymore. But the GP found a heartbeat and he started moving again.
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Then, at 31-and-a-half weeks, she woke to find no movement at all. Confirming there was no heartbeat, the GP had no choice but to send Kate to the airport to wait for a flight to Guernsey to access maternity services.
“On a Thursday we had confirmation that the baby had passed away, but I had to wait until Sunday to have the baby. Doctors wanted to take tissue to do genetic testing, but because the lab was on the mainland and closed at the weekend we had to wait," she said.
“It was horrific. There are no other words to describe it," she continued.
“They wanted us to stay on the maternity ward, but there was no way I could do that, so we had to book hotels. If we'd have been on Alderney we would have been sent home, but there wasn't really any other option. I was induced on Sunday at lunchtime and delivered him at about 11pm."
“We didn't name this baby, after everything that had happened. We spent the night and the next day with him and had him cremated. We have his ashes and are still deciding what to do with them," she said.
A full post mortem returned the result that a 'cord incident' had caused the baby's death.
“We did try one last time and I fell pregnant, but got very poorly and ended up miscarrying at 13 weeks in December 2018," said Kate.
“We'd taken such an emotional battering it was at that point we decided to look at surrogacy. Emotionally I do not think we were cut out for another pregnancy. If anything went wrong we would be completely broken."
Now the couple have spent all their savings and borrowed money from friends and family to spend on IVF and finding a surrogate, having begun the process in January this year.
They are trying to raise £8,000 ($10,000 USD) using GoFundMe, in anticipation of needing a second round of IVF, or so they can repay the people who have so kindly lent them money.
“We have two high grade embryos, both of which are mine, which means there is more of a chance of causing a pregnancy, using Matt's sperm," Kate said.
“Now we are waiting to find the right surrogate, which we have been told can happen really quickly or can take a long time. The reason it's cost so much is because we're having the baby using a surrogate, all of which we are arranging which means there's extra chromosome testing, pre-genetic screening and a longer quarantine period."
To find a surrogate, the couple had to fill in a complicated application form, detailing what they are looking for in the person, before a private agency matches them to someone they consider to be suitable.
“We know we can offer a child a happy home, so it's really hard that we haven't been able to," said Kate.
"Matt and I are healthy people, we exercise and eat our five a day. It's a really hard pill to swallow when you think you have something lovely to offer and you're not able to," Kate concluded. “We always wanted to have two children, but one healthy child would be amazing. If it's twins or triplets then we'd love that too – boy or girl. All we want is a family. Is that really too much to ask?"
To donate visit www.gofundme.com/chj4p-hope-for-the-future