For 12 years, Sue Lerigo smiled politely when people asked: “Don’t you want grandchildren?” Her answer was always the same: “Yes, I’d love grandchildren, but at the end of the day I’ve got two happy daughters.” Unbeknown to the well-meaning friends, her response hid a heartache too deep to even begin explaining.
Eldest daughter Carol, 41, had been through four unsuccessful rounds of IVF and miscarried one baby conceived naturally in her bid to become a mom. Younger daughter Marie, 38, who lives in Australia, was also struggling to start a family.
For Sue, 62, and husband Brian, 64, it didn’t look as if they’d ever become grandparents. Though it hurt, their pain was only ever for their beloved daughters. “We’ve sat and cried, but never ever for ourselves,” explains Sue, who lives in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Though put to one side, Sue’s yearning for grandchildren was incredibly strong because her own mother, Eva, had died in childbirth due to a blood clot and she’d been brought up by her paternal grandmother, Elsie.
“I was grateful to her, but she’d been widowed young and had already brought up seven children on her own. I always knew I was a chore."
“As I got older I was aware I didn’t have much family history of my own. I wanted grandchildren and it hurt when I saw pictures of other people’s, but all that really mattered was my daughters’ happiness,” she says.
Eldest daughter Carol and husband Nick, 42, from Sheffield, had been trying for a baby after deciding to start a family in their late 20s. After failing to conceive naturally, GP tests revealed a problem with Carol’s left fallopian tube. But it was when IVF treatment started in 2002 that Sue’s worry really began.
“Once I heard the words IVF, I knew a family wasn’t going to happen easily. As a mom, you just want your children to have the best of everything. We’ve always been such a close, happy family,” she recalls.
Over the next few years, four IVF attempts failed and when Carol unexpectedly became pregnant naturally in March 2011, she lost the baby almost as soon as the pregnancy was confirmed. “I’ve always tried to keep strong for Carol but I’ve shed a lot of tears in private. Even as a mom there’s nothing you can say. “I kept thinking, ‘What has she done to deserve this? She is a lovely person; why can’t it happen?’ You just feel so helpless,” says Sue who herself had problems after Marie’s birth, with a serious blood clot in her leg.
Finally, a turning point came when Carol heard about the CARE fertility clinic in Sheffield. She and Nick sank £8,500 ($10,128) savings into one last go just before her 40th birthday.
After asking searching questions and hearing about the family’s generational childbirth problems, the doctor requested additional blood tests. Results revealed a rare gene mutation affecting the clotting of her blood and the attachment of embryos to the womb. Carol started IVF treatment again, but this time she also had daily injections of a blood-thinning drug.
Within weeks, she became pregnant and continued the injections until 6-pound, 7-ounce baby Neve Mary arrived on June 3 last year. At five hours old, Sue was allowed her first cuddle of her golden-haired granddaughter. “I picked her up and fell in love with her there and then. You can’t describe it. I prayed Carol would get a daughter and she’d be as good to her as she is to me and there she was.”
Sue adds: “Now Neve’s hereI couldn’t be without her. You can’t tell anybody what it feels like. I love my daughters but this is another love. A special love.”
Sue and Carol are now hopeful that the newly-discovered gene mutation will also help Marie to have a baby of her own. “That would just be absolutely wonderful,” adds proud Gran Sue.
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