Three sisters, one child

A woman who was left infertile after chemotherapy to treat cervical cancer has a baby boy thanks to her two sisters—one of whom donated an egg and the other who acted as a surrogate.

Alex Patrick’s twin sister, Charlotte Pestell (32), offered her ovum and her older sister, Helen Ritchie (35) carried the foetus through pregnancy. The egg was fertilised in a laboratory using sperm from Patrick’s husband, Shaun. Their son, Charlie, was born 16 weeks ago weighing 3,8kg after a short labour.
Patrick said she would be ‘forever indebted’’ to her sisters.

It is thought to be the first case in Britain where three sisters have been involved in a single surrogate birth.

The environmental assistant from Woolwich, south-east London, discovered she was unable to have children four years ago when she was 28, after treatment for cervical cancer. ‘It was more upsetting than the cancer itself,’’ she told the BBC. ‘Shaun and I wanted to start a family and that had been taken away.’’ She said her longing for a child was unbearable at times. ‘Wherever I went, all I saw was women pushing a baby.’‘

When her sisters found out she was infertile, they asked if there was anything they could do. Pestell told her: ‘No problem, you can have my egg.’‘

The sisters went for treatment at Bath Assisted Conception Clinic in south-west England, which cost £3 000. They were told there was a 25% chance of success.

Eggs were taken from Pestell and fertilised in a laboratory with sperm from Patrick’s 39-year-old husband. Pestell had been given follicle stimulating hormones to help her egg production and was sedated during the procedure to remove the eggs. Patrick said it had been horrible to watch the operation. ‘You don’t want to see anyone you love in pain,’’ she said. ‘And she was doing it for me.’’ But Pestell said she did not recall the pain. ‘I remember lying on the bed and that was it,’’ she said. ‘It was almost an anti-climax.’‘

Despite the poor odds, Ritchie became pregnant during the first attempt to implant the embryo in her womb. The clinic said egg donors were relatively rare, and appealed to more women to come forward.

Ritchie said she experienced a close bond with the baby after carrying him for nine months. ‘I am surprised how much I miss him,’’ she said. ‘But I would definitely do it again if she wanted another baby. I just carried the baby for Alex and I didn’t see it as giving him away.’‘

Patrick said she had been worried that her relationship with her son would be affected because she was not his birth mother. ‘I was worried the baby would not love me,’’ she said. ‘I wanted to be the first person who touched the baby.’‘

Pestell said she was overjoyed for her twin sister. The fact that we are twins means such a lot,’’ she said. ‘This is the closest we could get to it being her child. I don’t need my eggs any more; I’ve had my children.’’—

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