After three years of unsuccessfully trying for a family, Clair McGlynn and her fiance Sam discovered that the problem was his: he produced no sperm.
In around one in five cases of infertility, it is the man who is responsible.
‘The doctor explained that if Sam’s sperm count had been low there were things that could be done to help us conceive, but with no sperm at all, we would never be able to have children,’ recalls Clair. ‘We were both stunned.’
Clair, then aged 26, assured her fiance that this wouldn’t change her feelings for him. ‘Love doesn’t work like that,’ she told him.
But five years later — and after spending £20,000 on tests and failed fertility treatment — Clair ended their 12-year relationship, deciding that becoming a mother was more important, even if it meant going it alone.
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Motherhood meant more: Clair McGlynn discovered that her fiance produced no sperm, so left him and became a single mother to twins – with the help of both donor eggs and sperm
For Clair, who is still single five years on, it was a heartbreaking decision, but one she has not regretted, she says, as she looks lovingly on her five-month-old twin daughters who were conceived using both donor eggs and donor sperm.
Clair and Sam (not his real name) had met through mutual friends when Clair was 19. ‘With his dark hair and features, Sam was just my type and I fancied him straight away,’ recalls Clair. ‘We started chatting and hit it off, and he asked me out on a date.
‘Four years later, while on holiday in Australia, he proposed. We were having dinner in a seafood restaurant and he gave the ring to the waiter who brought my plate out with a diamond ring, hanging off the end of a prawn tail.
‘I said yes straight away. I couldn’t wait to be his wife and start a family together.’ When they returned from holiday, Clair came off the Pill, but when, after three years, she hadn’t got pregnant, the couple went for the tests that revealed Sam was infertile.
‘I wasn’t about to give up then. I had dreams of having a family together. This is what we’d talked about. We both wanted loads of children and I never wanted children with anyone else.’
Nature’s very own gender gap: In around one in five cases of infertility, it is the man who is responsible
Desperate for a second opinion, the couple booked into a top fertility clinic in London. But doctors confirmed the earlier results. ‘I was devastated,’ admits Clair. ‘I’d never imagined this would happen. Sam was upset, too, he was stunned that the problem lay with him.’
‘He knew how much I wanted to be a mum and told me to leave him. I said that love didn’t work like that. I wanted to be with him and I wasn’t going anywhere.’
The couple then bought a house and started doing it up. Sam, who ran his own import/export company and Clair, a make-up artist, had a great social life and travelled extensively, including holidays to Canada and Fiji. But for Clair there remained a gap. ‘All our friends started to have children and I couldn’t help feeling envious,’ she says.
‘One night in 2008, I spoke to Sam about how I felt. He told me he felt the same, and suggested we looked into adoption. But I desperately wanted to carry a baby myself. I suggested a sperm donor, but Sam was against it: he thought that if we ended up arguing, I would say to him that they weren’t his children.
‘He was adamant he didn’t want to bring up another man’s child. I thought that was selfish of him — if we were soulmates, I thought he should do whatever he could to give me a family.’
In 2009, the couple sought another opinion at a fertility clinic in Cyprus. ‘They said they had detected a few sperm. We were ecstatic.’
Costly: Clair and her partner spent five years – and £20,000 – on further tests and failed fertility treatments
Heartbroken: In February 2011, while Sam was on a skiing trip with his brothers, Clair packed up her belongings and moved back in with her parents – leaving her man bereft (picture posed by model)
Clair underwent fertility treatment known as intra-uterine insemination, a form of artificial insemination where sperm are inserted into the womb near ovulation (the technique can help where the man has little sperm).
‘A week later, I took a pregnancy test but it was negative. Back home we went for another opinion and told the consultant about our treatment in Cyprus. He told us to stop wasting our money. He said there was definitely no sperm, that it was impossible for the Cyprus doctors to have found any, and he hadn’t even heard of some of the tests they had supposedly carried out.
‘We’d spent £20,000 so far — £10,000 in Cyprus, £6,000 in the UK having our initial blood tests and consultations, and then another couple of thousand pounds each for more tests. Yet we had got nowhere. It was hard to bear.’
Then in 2010 Clair went on to a sperm donor website and found a man from Cyprus with similar colouring to Sam’s. ‘He still wasn’t sure whether he could bring up another man’s child, although I hoped he would come round.
‘But as the months went on, I realised he wasn’t going to change his mind. We started to drift apart. I couldn’t stop thinking about being a mum. We argued a lot about it. I said he wasn’t being fair.
‘I would wake up in the night in dread, thinking about it all. I felt time was running out for me, but I was so in love with Sam that I never in a million years thought we would split up. Yet I was also desperate to be a mum. My friends were already on their second and third babies. And I loved being around them all, especially my four-year-old nephew.
Last attempt: Clair underwent fertility treatment known as intra-uterine insemination, a form of artificial insemination where sperm are inserted into the womb near ovulation
‘We were arguing more and more and Sam was going out with friends without me.’
In February 2011, while Sam was on a skiing trip with his brothers, Clair packed up her belongings and moved back in with her parents.
‘I didn’t warn him. I didn’t want to have to face him or risk him talking me out of it. I did feel terrible about leaving him, but I knew there was no going back.
‘When Sam returned he was devastated. He rang that night and lashed out angrily at me — but he didn’t try to win me back.’
In September 2013, Clair, who lives in Cheshunt, Herts, went to a fertility exhibition at the Excel arena in London and booked an appointment at the Herts and Essex Fertility Clinic.
But there was bad news: tests showed she had signs of early menopause and had a low ovarian reserve. She had too few eggs to harvest for IVF treatment.
‘I did feel angry,’ she admits. ‘I was 36 and had I been able to have a child earlier, I might have been able to use my own eggs.
‘My only option was to use eggs donated anonymously, together with a sperm donor. It wasn’t ideal, but I knew that I had to be a mother, whatever it took.
‘I didn’t tell Sam even though, ironically, his concerns about not being the father were now irrelevant because the child wouldn’t be either of ours genetically. Also he was in another relationship. Too much time had passed.
‘The treatment was going to cost £12,000, but it was worth it for the chance to be a mum.’
Three is family: ‘My only option was to use eggs donated anonymously, together with a sperm donor. It wasn’t ideal, but I knew that I had to be a mother, whatever it took’
In December 2014, Clair had two embryos implanted into her womb and two weeks later she took a pregnancy test. She says: ‘My breasts had started to get sore, so I’d said to my mum I was sure it had worked.
‘A week later, a friend persuaded me to get a test, so we drove to the supermarket that evening. Later, when a blue line came up positive, my mum, sister and I were in tears. We woke my dad to tell him, too.
‘At that point, I didn’t even stop to think that it would have been nice to have shared it with a partner. I have never imagined having a baby with anyone else other than my fiance. I had only left Sam to be a mother, not because I didn’t love him. I was happy to do it myself.’
At her seven-week scan, Clair was found to be pregnant with twins. ‘Mum came with me and she was almost hysterical,’ says Clair.
Extraordinarily, she and Sam were in close contact during her pregnancy. ‘Sam even paid for a private scan at 17 weeks for me to see the sex of the babies and he came with me. We went just as friends and it was nice to have him there.’
Defiant: ‘I don’t regret leaving my fiance. If I had stayed with him, I wouldn’t have my beautiful girls and they are my world,’ Clair says
At 38 weeks, Clair was induced, but then one of the twins heartbeats dropped and she had to have an emergency caesarean.
Clair’s sister Lisa, their mother and a friend, Lorraine, were all with her. ‘I didn’t feel I was missing out not having a partner with me — my support network was so strong.’
Her daughters were born within a minute of each other. ‘First, Hope arrived, then Faith. They were placed on my chest and I was flooded with love for them.
‘I texted Sam the following morning to say the girls had arrived and he texted back his congratulations. He said: “The girls are going to be brought up by the best mother. I’m really proud of you.” ’
‘When the girls were four weeks old, I took them to meet him in a cafe and he gave them a cuddle and later bought some clothes for them, which was a lovely gesture.
‘Of course, I’d like to find another partner one day — I do have hopes for the future — but I don’t regret leaving my fiance. If I had stayed with him, I wouldn’t have my beautiful girls and they are my world.’