Kirstie Downey was only a child herself when she was told by doctors that she could never have any of her own due to early menopause – and that IVF using donor eggs would be her only hope.
Fast-forward a decade, and the 26-year-old simply longs to be a parent, and says that she would give away every single thing she has to have children with her loving partner of almost seven years, Chris Hanson.
The pair, who live in the village of Newmills, have had a rollercoaster journey during the time they’ve been together, with Kirstie suffering a devastating silent miscarriage less than three months ago after a successful round of IVF which she received in Greece.
But their only dream in life is to have a child, and Kirstie believes there is so much more fight in her body to take a child to full term – and that is why the pair are embarking on a fundraising campaign to help raise money for a fourth round of IVF.
The only difference is, this time, the couple hope to receive their treatment in Spain: A place where the success rates are higher, and it is a cheaper place to travel to.
“There are very few donors in the UK because it is not anonymous: The child can find out who the biological mother is when they turn 18, and this puts a lot of people off,” Kirstie said.
“Abroad, it remains completely anonymous for life so there are hundreds of donors.
“Our last two cycles were in Crete, Greece, but we now want to go to Spain,” Kirstie continued. “The success rates are a lot higher, and Spain is a far easier and cheaper country to get to.
The pair have set a target of £10,000, which would include treatment costs (£7,500), all the medications, scans, blood tests, pre-screenings, and travel and accommodation costs.
“The medication, too, is a fortune. One of the tablets I take, costs £1 per tablet, and during the cycle, I am on eight of them per day.”
After two failed rounds of IVF, the couple received a glimmer of hope when their third round worked. But heartbreakingly, at the nine week mark, Kirstie suffered a silent miscarriage and needed to have a Dilation and Curettage (D&C) procedure in hospital.
“A silent miscarriage is a miscarriage with no bleeding or symptoms, and my body was not letting go naturally of the pregnancy,” Kirstie explained.
“The doctors recommended the D&C procedure to remove the pregnancy tissue.
“I had to have this done after I learned that our baby’s heartbeat had stopped.
“This absolutely killed us.”
After the procedure, Kirstie bled badly for around two weeks – but mercifully she is fighting fit again now, and is not giving up.
“To have a child is our only dream in life,” she said. “It would mean everything – and I literally mean everything.
“Chris would make a brilliant daddy, and I know I’d be a fantastic mummy too. As long as there is fight left in us, we will never give up.”
When the Newmills lady was just 16-years-old, she was diagnosed with premature menopause – a condition so rare that it only affects one in 1,000 women under the age of 29.
Indeed from that young age, Kirstie suffered all the usual menopause symptoms that a lady in her 50s would experience, such as constant hot flushes, mood swings and extreme fatigue – and even though now Kirstie is a decade older and on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), she still experiences the intolerable effects every single day.
Kirstie was also told by doctors that she would never have her own kids without in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment using donor eggs.
“I just feel so much older than what I am,” Kirstie reflected. “When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t really understand fully the repercussions because I was so young.
“It was only when I settled down with Chris that it hit me, and my whole world was turned upside down.
“Really, I was just a child myself when I was told I would have no children. And to this day, I have never met or read about any girl around my age being diagnosed with premature menopause so young.”
It was when Kirstie was 15-years-old that her very concerned mum asked doctors why she had not yet had her first period yet.
She was later taken for an MRI scan, but when her results came back, doctors were unable to visualise any ovaries or a womb.
Doctors then ran some chromosome tests to check that Kirstie wasn’t carrying a male chromosome – but they came back clear, meaning that Kirstie’s chromosomes were fine.
But during keyhole surgery, doctors discovered that Kirstie had one ovary that was very small and inactive.
“Basically, my reproductive organs never developed,” Kirstie explained. “My womb, at 16, was the size of a three-year-old’s.
“It was then that I was told I was going through early menopause, and I would never have my own child naturally.”
However, there is still hope: Despite Kirstie’s womb being so small, she can still carry a child – which is why she hopes to begin her fourth round of IVF in the near future.
“Both Chris and I have so much love to give, and there’s nothing we want more than a child,” Kirstie said.
“As long as there is fight left in us, we will never give up.”
Kirstie and Chris say that they are eternally grateful to anyone who donates to their cause.
• If you would like to help the pair raise their fundraising goal, please visit www.gofundme.com/ivf-egg-donation-help-make-our-dream-come-true