It hasn’t been an easy journey to parenthood for Katie Payne (@triplet_mum_of_4) and her husband Chris (@triplet_dad_of_4)…
The couple’s fertility problems were ‘unexplained’, and so they underwent IVF treatment. They were entitled to 3 free rounds via the NHS, thanks to a lucky draw in the postcode lottery.
Their 1st go tragically didn’t take – something they found out on Boxing Day a few years ago, which devastated them both.
But Katie, happily, did fall pregnant with the couple’s son, Sullivan, on the 2nd go.
When it came time to try for number 2, though, they were hit by the realisation that they couldn’t afford IVF privately.
“Once you’ve had a live birth, the slate’s wiped clean,” Katie tells MFM. “Once you’ve had a child, you can’t then use your 3rd go to try again, so we had to think about how we were going to financially afford to conceive a sibling.”
Egg donation – an alternate route to funding IVF
Desperate to have another child and give little Sullivan a sibling, Katie and Chris were faced with some major decisions – namely, would Katie be willing to donate her eggs in order to fund IVF?
“Initially, the clinic we used had an egg donation scheme,” Katie shared. “So, if I gave half my eggs away, we would get a round of IVF for free.
“They try and match you up with a recipient couple who are looking for my characteristics so my height, hair colour, eye colour, etc, and then you have to go through an approval scheme to get on that.
“You have to have responded well to your previous IVF cycles because I think you need to have over 6 previously collected eggs in order to donate and we’d always had 12.”
Katie and Chris didn’t see eye to eye on the subject at first. “I think I felt differently to Chris at first. Because we had Sullivan, I felt like we were giving back to the people who were in that TTC [trying to conceive] community.
“And even if it worked for the other couple and it didn’t for us, Sullivan would still have a half-sibling that potentially he could come into contact with, which I thought was quite nice.
“You have to go through counselling at the clinic, to make sure that you were fully prepared, because they ask you questions like: if it doesn’t work for you, but the other couple had a girl, how would you feel about that?
“He was a little more reluctant [than me] but when we talked through it he was all for it.”
Disappointment and waiting – the hardest part of fertility treatment
Katie and Chris were matched with a couple seeking donor eggs – and were told they needed to wait 2 months before the process could begin.
“The couple that we got paired with had to wait 2 months to some reason unbeknown to us, but we decided to wait for them,” adds Katie. “Which meant going on the contraceptive pill, so they could sync our cycles together.
“We waited 2 months for the clinic to tell us that the couple never turned up again to any of their appointments – we waited all of last summer, really, only to be let down at the last minute.
“For me the waiting, once you’ve psyched yourself up to donate your eggs, is the hardest part.
“It’s the waiting to be paired with the other couple, and then seeing if they respond to their medication as well, and then the never really knowing if it’s going to get going – because you’re so eager to get cracking.”
Katie and Chris’s final round of IVF
“We were gonna give up,” says Katie, of their dream to have another child. But then her hallelujah moment came, in the form of an unexpected gift…
“My grandparents gifted us some money, so then we were lucky enough to go for [one more round of IVF].”
Katie had 2 healthy embryos put back – after undergoing all the injections for the 3rd time.
Having gone through the process of IVF twice before, she was well-prepared for the ins and outs of the physical side of IVF.
“I really did not find the injections too bad,” she admitted. “Because that’s something I could control.
“Infertility’s something you’re not able to control, but when you’re injecting, it feels like you’re actually working towards a goal.”
Big Fat Positive – Katie’s 2-week wait
After their final round of IVF, Katie and Chris waited, and waited, and waited, until they could finally take their test.
And, yep, we’ve already given the game away: it was positive!
“We got a positive test after our 2-week wait, and we were absolutely over the moon, because this was our one and only last go at it.”
It wasn’t until their 1st scan, at 8 weeks, that things suddenly became… very unexpected!
“We waited until we were nearly 8 weeks for that initial scan, and I was really, really nervous. “Chris had a feeling that it was gonna be twins, because we’d had 2 embryos put back.
“I was just worried. You hear awful stories about empty sacs and things like that, and I’m a bit of a pessimist…
“But when our sonographer went ‘ooh’, she saw two babies on the screen first and then after a while she said, ‘Hang on a minute, I think I can see something else’, and I was like, ‘Oh god, what if something awful happens?’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, there’s another baby’!
“I just couldn’t really comprehend it to be honest – I was absolutely over the moon but then you think: ‘OMG, how am I gonna cope with 3?’
“We’ve always said what will be will be, and obviously this was meant to be.”
The highs and lows of Katie’s IVF triplet pregnancy
Obviously, the Paynes are ecstatic to be welcoming 3 little girls – 2 of whom are identical twins!
But a triplet pregnancy – one deemed “high risk” by docs – comes with its own set of concerns and anxieties.
“I felt so much more relaxed with Sullivan,” Katie admits. “Even though it was my first pregnancy, I just loved being pregnant and felt I was able to enjoy it, and didn’t really have, maybe naively, any real worries.
“I had no reason to think there would be any problems and had such a smooth pregnancy and a vaginal birth. I worked up until 38 weeks and I was running up until sort of 20+ weeks.
“Whereas with this pregnancy because it’s been high risk I haven’t been able to exercise which is a real passion of mine, and the sheer weight of my bump has meant I’ve lost a bit of my independence.
“For the identical set of twins, you run the risk of twin to twin transference syndrome, and we’re having to have extra scans every 2 – 3 weeks to check for that…
“Once I have a scan my anxiety goes down, but by the time the 3 weeks are up I’m back to square one.
“Then you’re told to count the kicks – but how do you know who’s kicking? It’s hard to tell if they’re moving all at the same time…
“It’s reassuring in the same breath to be so closely monitored.”
Fortunately, Katie’s got no major pregnancy symptoms – other than the typical pregnancy heartburn – something she knows makes her preeeetty lucky indeed ?
What comes next for Katie and Chris…
Well, when we spoke to Katie she was 29 weeks, now she’s officially at the 30-week mark – and hoping to make it to the last week of May before delivering the triplets.
“It’s just a case of me doing as little as possible until then,” she says. “The growth scan and consultant appointment went really well the girls are growing perfectly, and we are really happy with their weights (3lb, 3lb 5oz, and 3lb 7oz).”
And, now she simply has to prepare for the triplets’ arrival – as much as anyone can prepare for the whirlwind, sleep-deprived haze that is newborn life. Multiple newborn life.
That includes getting little Sullivan ready for big bro duties! “He’s nearly 2 and a half, and because I’m so big now I’m quite open about it with him.
“If you ask him he’ll say, ‘mummy’s got babies in her tummy’ and he’ll count to 3 – but I don’t think at his age he’s quite grasped that the babies are gonna come, and they’re gonna come home with us.”
To be fair to Sullivan, it sounds like he isn’t the only one. “Chris hasn’t quite grasped it either.”
Share your story
We know IVF doesn’t work for every couple who are undergoing fertility struggles, but we do hope sharing stories like Katie’s gives a little bit of hope to those who are going through it ?
If you’re struggling with infertility, talking about your feelings is SO important. Remember, you can always talk to fellow TTC couples in the lovely MadeForMums forum.
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Images: Katie’s Instagram