Sarah Esdaile has had an accomplished career, she is a theatre and television director, a speech writer and a teacher, but her biggest achievement is being mum to four-year-old Daisy
Sarah, 48 and her husband, Jamie 45, who live in North London, met when she was 38 and began trying for children straight away, but little did she know her journey to parenthood was not going to be as conventional as she thought.
When it didn’t happen she knew she didn’t have time to waste and began exploring fertility treatments, but after her first round of IVF failed, her fertility consultant floored her when she was told she would not be able to continue with her own eggs.
“I have always wanted children more than anyone I know,” Sarah says. “As the oldest of four, all of my siblings had children already and some of my friends were having their third children. Jamie and I moved quickly to regular IVF but our first round failed. We headed to see our consultant in Harley Street, expecting to discuss trying again and differences in protocol. I was knocked sideways by the information that my eggs were shot and that my options were to forget it, adopt or to use donor eggs.”
Sarah said she she felt devastated by this news, didn’t know much about donor eggs and could not get past not having a genetic link to a child she bears.
Soon afterwards her sister, who was 37 at the time, offered to donate her eggs to Sarah.
“In what I now regard as a state of near madness, I accepted with huge gratitude,” Sarah says. “To cut a very long and agonisingly complex story short, I had a major operation that did not go as smoothly as it might have done and my fertility journey was delayed by at least a year, as a result. Then, using my sister’s frozen eggs and my husband’s sperm, I did a round of donor IVF, in the UK, that failed. At the time, I was as close to despair as I have ever been, I now look back on the failure of that IVF as a blessing in disguise.”
Sarah asked her doctor what her plan b might be, should the next round of IVF fail and he mentioned he mentioned his colleague Michael Levy in Washington who had high success rates with UK patients using donor eggs.
On the evening that her second round of IVF failed, she made a phone call to Shady Grove, in Washington.
Sarah said: “I moved forward as quickly as possible with donor egg treatment through Shady Grove, got pregnant after my first round and gave birth to my daughter in March 2014.
“Donor egg treatment was the single best decision that I have ever made.”
Sarah now spends some of her time working with Shady Grove giving talks to women who may want to go through the same process.
She will tell her story at this weekend’s Fertility Show, being held at the London Olympia, in Kensington, something she feels strongly about
“I feel strongly about telling my story for two reasons,” she explains.
“Firstly, because I refuse to be part of the conspiracy of older women being untruthful about how they are getting pregnant into their forties.
“I was that cliched woman who sat in the hairdresser reading about the Hollywood actress who had her twins at 45 and I used those stories to soothe and delude myself that it was OK to wait.
“I also speak out because I want women, especially younger women, to be aware of the limitations on their fertility: sex education needs not just to be about not getting pregnant and not contracting an STD but to be about raising awareness of the sharp decline in fertility with age; about how bloody hard it can be to get pregnant at all.”
She said: “Through my work with Shady Grove Fertility in Washington – where I went to conceive my daughter – I have been speaking at and participating in The Fertility Show for the past four years. I know it to be an overwhelming but invaluable resource for couples and individuals who are at all stages of their fertility journeys and looking for information, advice and support.”
What message would you give to anyone out there who is considering using donor eggs?
“I have now spoken to about 300 women about donor egg treatment – each with very different life experiences and views on motherhood and assisted fertility. I have learnt that however different we all are, we are essentially worried about the same things: will I bond with my baby? Will my baby be damaged by this in the long term? What if my baby looks nothing like me?
“My message is really simple. Being a mother is not about genetics.
“It is a verb. It is about everything that you do from conception onwards. It is about the nurture and not the nature.
“I left it too late to have my own biological child. I feel really lucky that medical science was advanced enough to enable me to do this. I feel really lucky that I was able to scrape the money together to do this. And I mostly feel really lucky, on a daily basis, that I have the absolute privilege of being a mother to the most beautiful and kind and funny little girl I have ever met. It is without question the best decision I have ever made.”
Sarah asked us to include this beautiful quote from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet to conclude her story.
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
She will give her talk, travelling to the USA for egg donor treatment at 10.45am on Saturday, November 3.
To book tickets for this weekend’s London Fertility Show, click here