A couple who suffered 14 miscarriages finally welcomed their miracle baby after winning a free round of IVF treatment in a competition on Facebook.
Jo Scollen, 47, and her husband Jason, 49, who live in Spain, spent nearly 20 years trying to have a baby, and while she had no trouble conceiving, the pregnancy never lasted longer than 14 weeks.
The couple tried IVF once in 2014 but, after being advised against the treatment by doctors, had all but given up when they saw a magazine’s competition for a free round of fertility treatment in Cyprus.
After entering the contest ‘out of desperation’, the couple won and welcomed their healthy baby girl Jessica Rose in November 2019, calling their child a ‘dream’ after years of ‘dicing with emotional death’.
Jo Scollen, 47, and her husband Jason, 49, (both pictured) who live in Spain, spent nearly 20 years trying to have a baby before welcoming their miracle child Jessica Rose (pictured)
The couple suffered 14 miscarriages before their baby, who was born in November 2019 after a free round of IVF treatment won on a Facebook competition
Jo and Jason, both home renovators, met in a pub in Wimbledon, south west London, in 1998 and began trying for a baby two-years later.
‘Neither of us had a typical lifestyle growing up and it was our common bond that we wanted to have a family- and lots of animals!’, she said.
Jo became pregnant for the first time in 2000, and suffered her first loss the same year, when she was around seven weeks along.
She said: ‘That was horrendous – all our hopes for the future were there and then our world fell apart.
After entering the contest ‘out of desperation’, the couple won and called Jessica a ‘dream’ after years of ‘dicing with emotional death’. Pictured, Jason holding baby Jessica
‘I had to stay in hospital for a week after that. But it is in both of our natures to not give up easily, we are survivors in our makeup, so we just tried to dust ourselves off and try again.’
Jo was unable to get any answers from UK doctors about why she kept having miscarriages, and because she had no problem falling pregnant, did not consider IVF at the time.
In need of a break and a change, the couple sold everything and moved to Granada, Spain in 2009.
She said: ‘It wasn’t working over the years and it was getting harder to deal with in the midst of London.
Even after learning she was pregnant, Jo was never complacent, admitting they were ‘petrified’ during every scan. Pictured, a scan of baby Jessica
‘There was so much around that we couldn’t get our heads together. We came here to reduce stress and simplify our life, thinking maybe that would help.’
After the move, Jo realised she was able to get more tests in Spain to look into why she was having miscarriages.
Medics discovered she had three types of blood clotting disorders and additional immune factors like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) that could be affecting her pregnancies.
Jo said they told her it would be so hard to remain pregnant ‘she might as well give up’.
Jo went into labour but 18 hours after her waters had broken, her baby still hadn’t arrived, so she had an emergency c-section on October 19
She suffered 12 miscarriages in total before she went for a round of IVF in Spain in 2014, which cost around £2,000 (€2,217).
‘We decided it was something that we hadn’t tried before and we should give it a go’, said Jo.
A specialist miscarriage doctor from Epsom, Surrey, advised Jo that a precise timing of the medications involved in the procedure could give her a glimmer of hope.
Again she fell pregnant as a result, but had her 13th miscarriage in 2014.
Jo said before welcoming baby Jessica she had been ‘on the verge of giving up’ due to the ‘traumatic’ nature of her miscarriages
‘I was on the verge of giving up’, said Jo, ‘Each pregnancy and miscarriage was different and traumatic in a different way.
‘A lot of clinics said IVF wouldn’t work because I wasn’t having any trouble getting pregnant, which is what the treatment is intended to help with, I just couldn’t hold on to the baby.
What is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptom is extreme tiredness.
The main symptom of CFS/ME is feeling extremely tired and generally unwell.
In addition, people with CFS/ME may have other symptoms, including:
- Sleep problems
- Muscle or joint pain
- Headaches a sore throat or sore glands that are not swollen
- Problems thinking, remembering or concentrating
- Flu-like symptoms
- Feeling dizzy or sick fast or
- Irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations)
‘There were some clinics that dealt specifically with recurrent miscarriages, but we still weren’t successful there.’
The couple had almost given up hope when she came across a competition by magazine ivfbabble on Facebook, with a prize of a free cycle of IVF, in November 2018.
The competition was to commemorate 40 years since the birth of the first IVF baby, Louisa Brown.
‘I just clicked in a desperate moment and then completely forgot about it,’ said Jo. We proceeded to have our 14th loss and I thought there was no point carrying on, but then I got the email through saying I’d won!
‘I had to ring them up and check that it wasn’t an international scam! When my husband and I realised it was true, he said ‘I’ve only ever won a bag of crisps!”
Jo and Jason were one of ten winners and believe their baby could have been the first one born from the prize procedure.
Their procedure was scheduled in the Dunya clinic in Cyprus, and the couple travelled for 36 hours from their home in Spain in November 2018.
‘Whilst the IVF cycle was free, we had to fund our travel there which wasn’t easy as we live in the middle of nowhere and we ended up having to go via Istanbul,’ she said.
‘There were many flight delays, and we had to arrange for care for our many animals, but with IVF everything has a very strict timeline so we had to leave right away.
‘The benefit of IVF for me was that the medication was timed specifically for my cycle and helped with some of the roadblocks.’
An error led to the failure of the first cycle of IVF before the implantation stage, but offered them a second cycle, so the couple returned to Cyprus in February 2019.
Then, four weeks later, Jo and Jason went to Cartagena to find out the positive result via a blood test.
While living in Spain, medics discovered she had three types of blood clotting disorders and additional immune factors like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) that could be affecting her pregnancies. Pictured, Jo and Jason with Jessica
She said: ‘I had to have IV intralipids immediately after the test came back positive and continued to have those throughout the pregnancy.
‘I also had strong steroid injections and daily heparin injections- the approach was a lot more aggressive and wasn’t very nice,
‘My fertility coach, who dealt with complicated pregnancies, meditation and hypnosis helped me find my centre and made me more mentally prepared than ever before,’
WHAT IS IVF?
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a technique to help people with fertility problems have a baby.
It is the process of sperm fertilising an egg outside the body.
During IVF, an egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.
The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman’s womb to grow and develop.
It can be carried out using your eggs and your partner’s sperm, or eggs and sperm from donors.
Even with the positive result, Jo was never complacent, admitting they were ‘petrified’ during every scan.
‘Our hearts were in our mouths the entire time,’ she said. ‘We kept thinking that this was the miracle for us and everything must be falling into place.
‘Then it all started to happen, step-by-step. With every scan and every week I was petrified. Jason had me wrapped in bubble wrap! But I was treated as high-risk and I had appointments or scans more-or-less every fortnight.
‘There was never a moment when we thought ‘Thank goodness for that it’s all going to be OK. Throughout the whole pregnancy, right up to delivery, we held our breath.’
Jo went into labour but 18 hours after her waters had broken, her baby still hadn’t arrived, so she had an emergency c-section on October 19.
Jessica Rose, now 13 months old, was born healthy, weighing 5.7 lb.
She said: ‘In the end I had a cesarean and she was delivered in 12 minutes, but both my husband and my translator had to wait outside so I didn’t have much idea what was going on.
‘I was quickly whisked into recovery and had to stay in hospital for four or five days, but I just couldn’t wait to get back home!
‘Even when she was born I had to keep checking she was really there- I still can’t believe it happened for us. I still check now, but every week she becomes more real.
‘People see it as a selfish thing to continue after so many failures and this is why it’s a difficult subject – people just don’t understand why I would do it.’
Jo said that one of the most difficult things about carrying on was thinking about the toll it had on her husband.
‘It is easy to forget how difficult it is for the men, and how it affected Jason used to hurt me quite a lot. People just don’t consider how difficult it was for him to cope each time there was a loss- he had to pick me up off the floor and manage his own grief too.
‘Jason was my rock; he came to every appointment with me and help my hand the whole way through.
In need of a break and a change, the couple sold everything and moved to Granada, Spain in 2009. Pictured, Jo with baby Jessica
‘I knew I had the strength to go on after yet another disappointment, but did he? I constantly had to re-evaluate. But even with every doctor that told me it was impossible and to give up, I felt very strongly in my heart that I knew it could happen.’
The family hope to give Jessica a sibling through adoption in the future.
Jo said the experience had been ‘unbelievable’, adding: ‘I was at the stage where I was on my knees and about to give up. After having that many disappointments, you’re dicing with emotional death the whole way through the process.
‘We had literally run out of funds at that point- both financially and emotionally- and it came entirely out of the blue! It was a miraculous bolt of positivity.’
Jessica Rose, now 13 months old, was born healthy, weighing 5.7 lb and the family hope to adopt a sibling for Jessica in the future
Jo said how ‘determined’ their baby is, and that while they haven’t been able to live their life as planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the family are ‘so grateful’ for their daughter.
‘Jessica has been a dream’, she said, ‘You’ve never known a more determined baby, and you can tell where she gets it from! I don’t think there has ever been a baby that’s more wanted than her!
‘With Covid everything has been locked down so we’ve not been able to do many of those things I’ve waited 20 years to do, like seeing family or just going shopping, which is heartbreaking. But she is here, full of life, and I am so grateful.’