When her relationship ended, Tamara Murray decided not to let that stop her having the family she had always wanted.
A high flyer who refused to abandon her dream of becoming a mum when her romance with a fellow helicopter pilot crash-landed as she approached 40 has spent £30,000 having her dream baby using a sperm donor.
Despite enjoying career success as a human resources director, Tamara Murray, 42, always wanted a child, and began to consider lone parenting when she reached her mid-thirties without settling down.
All that changed when, considering a new profession, in 2016 she trained to be a helicopter pilot, and while on a helicopter safari in South Africa, fell in love with the instructor, hoping they may start a family together – only for their relationship to end after three and a half years.
Still childless and turning 40, rather than abandon her dream, Tamara visited a fertility clinic and after her fourth round of IVF, gave birth to her daughter Lucie four months ago on June 30, using her own eggs and donor sperm.
Speaking as actress Emma Watson has opened up about the pressure to get married and have children by the age of 30, the new mum from Cobham, Surrey, said: “I had always wanted children and thought I would start a family with someone.
“I was quite career orientated and when I reached my 30s and was not in a relationship, I started to think about having a baby on my own.”
She continued: “At 34 I’d visited a fertility clinic and been told my fertility count was great, so I thought I would be fine. It wasn’t quite the right time for me to have a baby then, as I’d just been made redundant, was training for my helicopter licence and thinking about a career change, so I thought I would wait a bit longer.
“Then, at 36, I fell in love with someone during a helicopter safari in South Africa.
“We were in a relationship for three and a half years, going back and forth between South Africa and London, so I put my plans to have a baby on hold, thinking he might be ‘the one’ and we would have a family.”
Tamara said: “When I realised that wasn’t going to happen, I ended it with him.
“Having just turned 40, I was in a much better place. I’d been working my way up the career ladder with the same company for six years and I had friends who had gone through the process of IVF, so it felt like the right time.
“But I think I was quite naïve about the process. I thought I was fit and healthy, my siblings had no problem conceiving and I had been told my fertility count was good.”
“I just hadn’t appreciated how critical age is in terms of going through IVF and how much harder it is the longer you leave it,” she continued.
“Even if you have a lot of eggs, after 35, the maturity of them can be quite poor. Had I maybe got my eggs frozen at 35 or 36 that would have given me a much better chance.”
So, in December 2017, with the support of friends and family, Tamara started IVF using donor sperm at a large fertility clinic.
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She recalled: “Initially, I paid for one round of IVF and didn’t know that most people will buy three at the same time, because it’s quite unusual for it to work the first time.
“I had friends who it worked for first time with minimal eggs, so I thought I was invincible, but I quickly realised I wasn’t.
“The first time it did not work and the second time the pregnancy ended at two or three weeks.”
Tamara had to take medication to help suppress her natural menstrual cycle and boost her egg supply, by injecting herself with a fertility hormone every day for two weeks.
After her eggs were collected and fertilised with the donor sperm, they were transferred to her womb, then more hormone medicines were given to help prepare the lining to receive the embryo.
Tamara recalled: “The third time everything was going well at 10 weeks, but following a scan, they discovered the heartbeat had stopped.”
“It was such a shock for me. I was on such a high at being pregnant, so finding out it hadn’t worked was really hard,” Tamara recalled.
“My friends and family knew I was going through the process, but I couldn’t bear speaking about it. I realised it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought it would be.
“You think about it all the time. You have 10 to 11 eggs that look great, but by the time they are fertilised you’re thinking, ‘Have any more eggs died today?”
Deciding to give it one last shot, Tamara visited the Harley Street Fertility Clinic in London in July 2018 for her fourth round of IVF.
A blood test revealed several issues – that she was susceptible to blood clotting, which might have blocked her umbilical cord, that she was not producing enough progesterone to support the pregnancy and that her body was not absorbing folic acid properly.
“The clinic told me they could help with all of these things, so I always felt like there was a solution,” Tamara recalled.
“I was put on strong medication, including steroids which was awful. My hormones were all over the place. I was injecting progesterone every day for two weeks, and blood thinning medication, taking aspirin to try and thin my blood and oestrogen as well.
“I had also been to see a healer who helped me get past the loss of the baby at 10 weeks. I felt like I couldn’t move on, but he allowed me to go through the next process.
“I saw an osteopath who diagnosed a twisted pelvis, which he helped to fix, so that my body was in a better position to help carry the baby to full term.”
“In my head I was thinking I had one more shot at it and I was convinced it was going to work,” she recalled.
Doing everything she could – from eating healthily to holistic treatments such as reflexology and yoga – to make sure her mind and body were in the best shape possible, Tamara said clinic staff also gave her tremendous support.
“The clinic was so nurturing and I really felt like the consultant was going through the journey with me,” she said.
“The staff helped narrow down the donor options, so it wasn’t so overwhelming. The previous times, I had spent a lot of time searching through different donors and I’d get fixated looking at pictures of them.
“But the fourth time, the clinic staff just came to me with a few options, giving me their height, eye colour and occupation. I didn’t see any photos, which I think was better, because I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas about what they would look like.”
Placing the fertilised embryo into Tamara’s womb after three days, rather than allowing it to grow in a laboratory until five to seven days, as would happen normally, she then had a nerve-wracking two week wait to see if the process had worked.
“That was the worst time. You get through that first week then you start thinking, ‘Do I feel different?’ You are trying to look for signs that it has worked,” she said.
“It’s such an emotional journey and you’re desperate to have that result.
“Seeing that positive pregnancy test, I couldn’t believe it. I took four pregnancy tests on my own, just to make sure!”
— HSFC (@HSFC_UK) October 23, 2019
Tamara explained: “I felt like I had done everything right, I’d been visiting a reflexologist, an acupuncturist, I had holistic treatments and reiki. But it felt like it had been worth it.
“Then came the next phase of the journey. I’d already done so much to reach the point I was at, that I found it really hard to relax. I was on constant high alert.”
At 13 weeks, Tamara was delighted when she found out she was having a baby girl, and at 22 weeks she finally started to relax and enjoy the pregnancy.
“She was growing so fast. At 36 weeks she was already 7lb 9oz,” she said.
“Because I was showing signs of gestational diabetes, causing high blood sugar during pregnancy, the doctors booked me in for a c-section at 39 weeks, but I actually went into labour on that day, at just over 38 weeks.
“Lucie was born on June 30 at the Royal Surrey Hospital weighing 9lb 3oz with my mum by my side.”
“It was the most amazing experience. She was this little ball of fury, all swollen. They took her away, tidied her up and brought her over to me. It was such a lovely moment. I couldn’t believe that she was mine,” she continued.
“I felt so much love for her and this protective instinct just came over me. It was immense.”
Leaving the hospital with her mum Margaret Murray, 73, sister Kirsten, 36, brother Guy, 41, she felt so proud.
“I thought, ‘I’ve done it’,” she said. “I had a lot of anxiety at first and was constantly doing risk assessments – trying to make sure nothing was going to happen to her.
“I still have moments, because I worked so hard to get her, when the fear of losing her is really strong.
“She is such a little miracle. It’s the most amazing and magical experience.”
With celebrities such as Natalie Imbruglia, who gave birth to a donor baby at the age of 44 last month, also talking about lone parenthood, Tamara thinks it is becoming more common for women to have a child by themselves.
“As long as you have a good support network around you there is no reason why you can’t do it alone. I also had a night nanny to help. It’s not easy and it is expensive,” Tamara said.
“I think I spent about £30,000 in total when you tot it all up. There’s the medication and each IVF round costs between £5,000 to £7,000.”
“But, of course, it was worth it,” she added.
“Lucie’s a very inquisitive baby. She knows her own mind and if she doesn’t like something, she will let you know. She’s just a delight.
“I do not look at her and think I have done motherhood in a different way. It just feels so right and does not feel any different to having a baby naturally.”
“I never had any doubt that I could do it on my own,” she explained.
While she is focusing on being a new mum for now, Tamara also remains hopeful that she will meet someone special and have a relationship in the future.
She added: “I have had relationships but I’ve never found Mr Right, and with my last partner, I was so focused on having a family, it really affected it.”
“Now I would love to meet someone and because I’ve got Lucie and am content with being a mum of one, I’m in a better place to focus on the relationship, rather than starting a family,” she said.
Dr Venkat, of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic, said her team was delighted to have been able to help Tamara become a mum.
She said: “We are over the moon that she now has a beautiful baby and her dream of becoming a mother has come true.
— HSFC (@HSFC_UK) October 21, 2019
“We know very well that the path to pregnancy isn’t easy for everyone and we work with each patient to ensure they get the care and treatment that is right for them.”
For more information visit www.hsfc.org.uk