'We never gave up hope': Parents celebrate arrival of baby girl after spending £100,000 on EIGHT rounds of IVF.
After spending tens of thousands of pounds over the best part of a decade on seven failed IVF courses, the experts were clear on one thing - Sarah Francis would never have a baby.
The judgement seemed even more clear-cut after she learned she had a rare condition which made her immune system attack any unborn child. But she and her husband Darren, 38, decided to try just one more time - bringing their total spend on treatments to £100,000 - and were rewarded with daughter Evie.
Today, as she hugged her precious child, Mrs Francis had an important message for other would-be parents faced with the same agonising process. 'We want other people going through the same thing to know there can be a happy ending. Just don't give up,' she said.
The couple, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, had been trying to conceive for a year when they were told they would it would never happen naturally. 'We were told we would never have a child. It just wasn't working. Despite test after test, we just weren't given a reason why,' said Mrs Francis, 33, an account correspondant for a sports company.
'After trying naturally for a year with no luck we started IVF in 2000. After seven failed attempts we were told "There's no more we can do for you".'
In a last-ditch attempt, the desperate couple were referred to a specialist clinic in London's Harley Street. Mrs Francis had a new set of blood tests which revealed the devastating news that her own body was turning on her foetuses. 'I had to have blood tests which involved 18 vials of blood being taken from me, which then got sent to Chicago Medical Centre in America,' she said. 'The result came back that my immune level was so high my own body was killing the embryo.
'It was ironic because the condition means I never get ill because I have such a strong immune system but it was attacking the very thing I wanted most in the world.'
Numbed by the bleak outlook, the couple nevertheless decided to have one more course of IVF and returned to the clinic early last year hoping it had finally worked.
Sarah Francis gave birth to Evie at Southend Hospital in Essex (pictured) Mrs Francis said: 'We were told to go away for a few hours while they looked at the results. Darren and I went to Oxford Street to try to keep ourselves busy.
'Suddenly in the middle of the street the phone rang. We both looked at each other. I answered, expecting the worst and the clinician on the other end said "It's positive".
'I can't describe the emotion that welled up inside me. We didn't say anything to each other. We walked back to the car in silence and both just burst into tears.
'I still get tearful now when I remember the joy of that day.' She paid tribute to her husband, adding: 'I know families who have been torn apart by IVF. I felt like a failure.
'I even said to my husband "I understand if you leave me". But he was always amazingly supportive and I never felt I was going through it all alone.' Evie was born at Southend Hospital on November 23 last year weighing a healthy 5lb 15oz and her parents have already planned a surprise gift for her when she reaches adulthood.
Mrs Francis said: 'I've saved the receipts to give Evie on her 18th birthday to show how much she cost us.'
Article: 31st July 2010 www.dailymail.co.uk
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