The painful journey to parenthood
Fertility and Pregnancy For couples unable to conceive, the journey to parenthood is fraught with emotional pain, tension and often confusing and even conflicting advice. Olivia Sanderson shares her story.
“They are just so gorgeous, I’d do anything for them,” gushes Olivia as she speaks about her two children Cameron, four, and Emily, two To all intents and purposes, the Sandersons are the regular family: mum, dad and two kids. Their journey to get here, however, has been more unusual.
Cameron and Emily are both adopted and the couple’s battle to become parents led Olivia to set up Routes to Parenthood, a series of regional events to give information and advice on IVF, surrogacy, adoption and fostering to would-be parents.
As a healthy couple in their late twenties, Olivia and Andrew never dreamt they’d struggle to have the children they longed for. “We just knew we wanted to be parents together,” remembers Olivia. “We had visions of this honeymoon baby, but when that didn’t happen it was difficult to speak to anyone about it.”
Despite the fact that one in every seven couples struggle to conceive, infertility is not a subject people speak openly about. For most, the first port of call is the GP. So, after months of disappointment, the Sandersons set off to seek advice. They were immediately put on the conveyor belt of tests and interrogations that eventually led to a grant for IVF.
To call the experience that then followed bad would be an understatement. After receiving an incorrect dosage of treatment the eggs used for fertilization were underdeveloped and Olivia didn’t get pregnant. After pushing for more tests, it was eventually discovered that Olivia had endometriosis, so the couple were told they’d need a donor egg and £8,000 to try again. With limited information or advice, the couple didn’t know where to turn.
“What we often forget is that it’s as much an emotional journey as it is a physical one,” explains Olivia as she recalls the trauma that both she and Andrew experienced.
Adoption hadn’t really been a consideration, until a few months after IVF when the couple visited friends who’d been through the process. “It always seemed like a back up plan,” recalls Olivia. “But it got us thinking about what we really wanted and I realised it wasn’t about getting pregnant - we just wanted to be parents.”
The realisation gave the couple renewed hope and so they contacted their local authority. What followed was a year of meetings, home visits and waiting until the news finally came that the local authority had too many couples waiting to adopt, so they wouldn’t be taking the Sandersons on.
“I just felt like I’d wasted a year of my life,” remembers Olivia. “We were both so frayed, I just gave up.”
The longed-for family
But the longing for a child never went away and couple eventually decided to contact all the local authorities in their region until they found one looking for adoptive parents.
By January 2012, they were on the list and had to wait ten more painful months before they got they finally got the call to tell them there was a little boy who needed a loving home. Cameron, who was then 18 months, became their legal son in January 2013. His younger sister, Emily, joined him in November 2015 just before her second birthday.
Throughout their journey the family struggled to find a single point where they could get comprehensive information on their options, which inspired Olivia to set up Routes to Parenthood.
“We want to put the power back in people’s hands so they can see what’s available and find their own journey,” she says. “I’ll never forget one event we ran where a man wrote to say that after coming and visiting the stands and hearing the seminars he was able to see hope return to his wife’s eyes.” Olivia’s desire is that Routes to Parenthood will, indeed, show more couples that, even through the heartache, options are available.