‘The moment I saw my first-born IVF baby, I was horrified: Had there been a sperm mix-up?’

‘The moment I saw my first-born IVF baby, I was horrified: Had there been a sperm mix-up?’

After surviving my partner’s death, numerous failed IVF rounds, and then flying his sperm and my eggs all over Europe, it was no surprise that when I did finally get pregnant with Lola, I was in so much shock that I stared at the wall, unable to talk for three days. Lola was conceived at a clinic in Alicante, Spain. Flying home with Lola as an embryo inside me, I wondered if in 10 days I would get a positive pregnancy test. In my seat and holding my stomach as we took off, I said to her: “Just cling on darling, we are going to make it.”

After the procedure, I wasn’t allowed to pick up anything heavy to help the embryo stick to my womb lining. The problem was I had a massive holdall bag with me, bursting with medication from the clinic, as well as all my clothes. Although I had been told to stay calm and slow down to let the embryo take, I ended up running around Alicante airport in a state of total panic trying to buy a suitcase with wheels. Then as I saw that my plane was boarding, I had to abandon my plan and leg it to the gate.

I was slightly anxious that the embryo might dislodge as we made the bumpy landing at London’s Heathrow. The clinic had reassured me that it would all be fine and to just relax. It didn’t help that the pills I was given to help the embryo stick had a speed-like effect on me, which made me hyper. 

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I just couldn’t afford to take any more risks with this potential child inside me. When I got to airport baggage reclaim at Heathrow, I pretended to somebody that I was pregnant to get them to lift my bags on to a trolley. They even offered to get me a taxi. I wondered if I should have used this ploy years ago.

I didn’t think for a minute that it had actually worked. On the day of the test, I didn’t even bother doing a pregnancy test. Instead, I went off to a Harley Street clinic to do the definitive blood test and was told to call back at lunchtime for the result. By 5pm they had become impatient waiting for me to call and a stranger rang me and delivered the news I had been waiting to hear for 10 years.

“Is that Charlotte Cripps?” said voice down the phone. “Yes,” I said numbly. “We have your blood results and we are pleased to tell you that you are pregnant!”

As I sat down on my bed, my reality did a 360-degree turn. Oh my god, what the hell do I do now? My life flashed before me: how will I cope? I’ll never sleep in again. Oh my god, I must chill out, miscarriage is high in the first three months. I can’t believe it has happened, I did it.

“What would Alex say,” I thought. I would have had to calm him down. It would have taken some time for him to get used to it, that’s for sure. All the obsessing I had done was about how to get pregnant – not one part of it had been about what you do when you finally are.

I’d always imagined this picture-perfect scene: lying in the arms of my beloved, holding my tummy waiting for the magical moment of the first kick, going to the endless midwife appointments. But my reality was: stay at home alone with the dog – or carry on as normal – which is like a blue-arsed fly. My best mum-friend tells me that my power animal needs to be a snail. That means I need to act like a snail, move like a snail, basically be a snail. But, to be honest, it was stressful becoming a snail because slowing down was like mission impossible.

I had already embraced eating for two before I did the pregnancy test, but once I got the result I began comfort eating in earnest. It was like finally all my dreams had come true. My friend had told me to make fresh juice in a NutriBullet every day, but in reality my daily menu became Branston Pickle and extra mature cheddar sandwiches, veggie hamburgers in buns with onion, and ice cream – and that was before the cravings kicked in. 

As I started to look pregnant with Lola, my neighbours looked aghast, not knowing what to say, believing it must have been the result of a one-night stand. My bump developed quickly, so I looked much further along than I was. I wasn’t quite sure if it was all the food or the baby – but when the midwives said it must be water retention, I knew it was the daily dose of Haagen-Dazs Cookies and Cream. 

I still had to pinch myself that it had actually happened. My family was over the moon – as was Alex’s. I kept bumping into other women in my area who were pregnant. They’d greet me with things like: “Oh what hospital are you going for? We can’t decide between the Portland and The Lindo Wing,” not for a moment questioning if I could afford thousands per night at these private hospitals. 

“And who’s your doctor?” I was doing it on the NHS so I had no idea day-to-day who my doctor was, as it was interchangeable – that is, until I was assigned the royal gynaecologist Guy Thorpe-Beeston, who delivered Kate Middleton’s baby. He took me under his wing and scanned me regularly as I couldn’t feel Lola kicking – an important indicator that everything is OK – but apparently my placenta was at the front of my womb and cushioning her blows.

At the scans, I could see her growing. But even when hands, feet and a little nose appeared, still I couldn’t take it in. Even when I was wheeled in to have an emergency C-section at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, I was in total disbelief. “I’m not ready,” I said seriously, shaking uncontrollably, forcing them to tranquilise me while they pulled out the baby.

Once the drug was in my system and I relaxed, I held the anaesthetist’s hand and told him my whole life story. The doctors and nurses around me seemed to be swaying around the trolley, tears in their eyes. It was as emotional as the climax of a Hollywood tear-jerker.

But when they handed me Lola, instead of falling head over heels in love, I saw a mop of black hair I didn’t recognise and wondered if Alex’s sperm had been mixed up in some horrific admin blunder.

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