‘I wouldn’t be without her’ - Ipswich IVF baby Adele, 4, set for first day at school
- Credit: Archant
A youngster’s first day at school is a momentous occasion for both parent and child. But for Rachel Woodward, the excitement and tears will have that little bit more significance - for it was a moment she thought might never happen.
Like many would-be parents, Rachel and her husband Arren struggled to conceive the baby they longed for in order to start a family.
After trying for a baby for around two years, Rachel was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - a common cause of infertility in women.
She found the diagnosis "more of a relief than anything", adding: "I felt more in control, knowing there was something I could do to try and help things along.
"The disappointment and the struggle came when you realise that actually it's not an easy fix, when treatment after treatment didn't work.
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"That's when you feel like you're not fulfilling your god given right as a woman.
"It's not exactly a god given right, but it's what you feel you're supposed to be able to do."
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Even though there was no question of Arren not standing by her, Rachel quite naturally started to doubt whether their relationship could survive.
"It affected me and I started worrying that he might want to see someone else," she said.
"It didn't matter how much he would try to reassure me."
IVF treatment, where a woman's egg is removed from her ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory, was the next option.
Rachel said there were "mixed emotions" of nerves and excitement as she began treatment with the Bourn Hall Colchester clinic.
"I'm not going to say the treatment was easy," said the 33-year-old, who even went on a low-carb, high-fat diet in a bid to lose weight and maximise her chances.
"It's a lot of waiting and a lot of going to the clinic for scans.
"It's all consuming - all I would worry about was what injections I've got to take and when."
There is no guarantee that a cycle of IVF treatment will work - as much anything it can, it can depend on pure luck.
After three cycles over 18 months to two years, Rachel admitted: "I'd lost a little bit of hope and faith".
She and Arren started to look into adoption - but was then shocked and overwhelmed when she finally fell pregnant.
"When I saw the positive pregnancy test it was the first time I had seen one and it seemed surreal," she said.
"I firmly believe that the weight loss and an impact on our chances of conceiving - and that the change in my mental impact had an impact too.
"It was what I had to do and, eventually, it was worth it."
'I would do it again in a heartbeat'
Today, as Adele prepares for her first day at school on Wednesday, aged four, Rachel says: "She's sassy, knows her own mind as is just as strong-willed as I am.
"She's bright and very clever. She has her moments, as all do children do, but she's a happy and healthy four-year-old who can't wait to go to school.
Rachel says waving Adele off at the school gate will be a "big moment" for the whole moment, adding: "This might well be the only time we get a first day at school.
"We're excited and probably much more nervous than she is.
"But we can't wait for her. She will absolutely love it. She will flourish and grow."
Asked whether she would recommend IVF treatment to others, Rachel said: "If I wanted another child, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
"I wouldn't change anything. All the pain and everything we went through to get the end result was worth it."
Of Adele, Rachel says: "I wouldn't be without her."
Dr Arpita Ray, lead clinician at Bourn Hall Colchester, said she was delighted to she the Woodwards' success.
"Starting school is a big step in a child and their parents' life and is even more special for those parents who thought they might never be able to have a child at all," she said.
"Since Bourn Hall opened in Colchester we have helped thousands of couples from Suffolk and Essex to have a family of their own.
"It is always fantastic to see those babies and follow their progress as they develop into little people."
For more information about IVF treatment at Bourn Hall, visit its website.
About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
According to Bourn Hall, 40% of infertility cases are due to male factors whereas 40% are down to female factors.
The remaining 20% of cases are either a combination of both partners' factors or are unexplained.
Dr Arpita Ray, lead clinician at Bourn Hall Colchester, said: "PCOS is a complex syndrome that produces a wide variety of symptoms, which makes it difficult to both diagnoses and treat.
"Patients often report having seen different specialists over a number of years for treatment for various symptoms - acne, excessive facial hair, weight gain, heavy periods - without the realisation that the same problems all have the same cause."
Bourn Hall is holding a free roadshow at Wherstead Park on Sunday, September 21, where it is offering a free mini consultation with a fertility nurse specialist to anyone concerned about their own ability to have children.