London - Smiling with her six-week-old baby in her arms, Katie Foster is thrilled her daughter has arrived in time for Christmas – thanks to a competition she won on Facebook.
The HR manager, 37, and her husband Jon, a doctor, received a free round of IVF after they were named the winners of the contest she entered on a whim.
The couple, from Staffordshire, always knew they would need help to have a family as Dr Foster, 35, was born with a fertility condition which made conception difficult.
They were eligible for only one round of NHS-funded IVF in their area – despite official guidelines recommending couples should receive three rounds – and sadly their first attempt in 2015 was unsuccessful.
The couple paid £16 000 (about R302 000) for a further two rounds of private IVF which eventually resulted in the birth of their first child Elijah, now two.
But although they desperately wanted another child to complete their family, they were worried about spending another £8 000 on IVF when their chances of conceiving had decreased over time.
Foster said: "There was a lot to consider when it came to spending the money. As we had a child now, I had gone part-time at work and we had the added costs of childcare. Our chances of conceiving were not great so we didn’t know if we could go through the heartache of trying and it not working."
But then a friend tagged her in a post promoting the competition in April 2018 which was giving away a free round of IVF and Mrs Foster entered. The contest, being run by fertility advice website IVF Babble, was offering eight free rounds of IVF funded by the Fertility Partnership clinics in the UK to mark the 40th anniversary of the treatment.
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Assuming she would not win, she forgot all about it until she received an email three months later, saying she had been picked from thousands of entries.
"I thought someone must be spamming me and it couldn’t be real," she said. "I just didn’t believe it. It took a few days and the clinic phoning me to confirm before it sunk in."
The couple were offered treatment through Nurture Fertility, part of the Fertility Partnership group, and chose to have it in Burton-on-Trent – at the same clinic which had helped them have Elijah.
Foster had to take supplements for a few months before starting treatment on Boxing Day. She feared it would not work as the couple were only able to produce one embryo of below-average quality and, after it was implanted, they faced an anxious fortnight’s wait before she could take a test to see if she was pregnant.
"I was really, really surprised to get a positive result because I thought we couldn’t be lucky enough to have won the competition and then for this one round of IVF to have worked. We were so elated to find out I was pregnant," she said.
After a straightforward pregnancy, baby Abigail was born at Stafford Hospital in October weighing a healthy 8lb 5oz. She is now settling into life at home with her big brother who ‘absolutely loves’ hugging and chatting to her.
Foster said: "We joke about her being our 'free baby'. Obviously she was very much wanted and we would have found a way to have her somehow but to 'win' her was just amazing. We couldn’t wish for a better gift for Christmas and cannot thank the clinic and IVF Babble enough for making our dreams come true. Words can’t describe how it feels to have completed our family."
Dr Nick Raine-Fenning, medical director at Nurture Fertility, said: "Myself and all the team are delighted we played a small part in Katie and Jon’s journey and we’re honoured they trusted us to help build their family."