Pregnancy Birth

She's faced 15 years of heartbreak but this Auckland woman won't give up on her baby dream

Every cent she has goes into trying to have a baby.

There's a spare room in Sharee Welch's Auckland home where she goes to dream or sometimes shed a quiet tear. In it, the words "I love you to the moon and back" are repeated on two signs on a dressing table.

A baby's cot sits in the corner of the light-filled bedroom, with the top sheet neatly turned down and Sharee's cherished childhood soft toy on the pillow. More than 50 little girl's dresses are in the wardrobe, and the shelves are stacked with neat rows of children's books, toys, hair ribbons and clips.

"I could have a baby tomorrow," says Sharee. "I have everything I need except the car seat."

For the past 15 years, Sharee has collected things for the baby she desires so much. But devastatingly, there is no child and her spare room is so far frozen in time.

"There are days when I avoid this room and only venture in to clean," admits Sharee, a 41-year-old professional. "But other days I come in, cry and walk out."

As a single woman, she's spent more than $50,000 on IVF, intra uterine insemination (IUI), sperm and egg donation, and donor embryo implantation overseas.

"I own my own home and I work hard," she tells. "I don't eat out at restaurants and I don't take expensive holidays. Every cent I have goes into trying to have a baby."

Sharee has taken the brave step of sharing her journey with Woman's Day to highlight our dire shortage of egg and sperm donors. Keen to lift the taboo on infertility, she writes a blog, NZ – My Donor IVF Journey at IVF Spain Alicante, which is viewed by up to 10,000 people weekly.

"So many people struggle and yet don't tell their friends or family. It needs to stop – infertility shouldn't be embarrassing or shameful."

Sharee has dreamed of being a mother since she was a little girl growing up in South Auckland.

"I remember making a cassette recording when I was 10, saying I wanted to be a police officer, marry a rich man and have six kids," she laughs.

In her 20s, she focused on her career, but by her 30s, she realised her friends and cousins were having babies. Although she has male friends, she says she's never found her soulmate. "Having a baby on my own isn't something I'm scared of – I know I can do it."

At 37, Sharee contacted Fertility Associates in Auckland but was shocked to discover there was a two-year waiting list for a sperm donor.

While she was waiting, she connected online with a donor from Wellington and over the next year had five inseminations.

"When it failed the first few times, I cried, but by the end, I just went numb," she recalls.

After the heartbreak, Sharee took a year off in her quest to have a baby. And while most of her friends were supportive, she began to keep things to herself.

"I didn't want their sympathy or to hear them say sorry – I just wanted a baby."

Desperate, she took to Facebook to appeal for a donor, but crushingly, no-one responded.

"It went quiet, like a ghost town," she says.

Then in February this year, Sharee was told her follicle reserve was so low, it was likely she also needed egg donation. Not only was there a waiting list of three to five years, but also her case had to go before the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology.

It was a huge blow, but then came hope. "A friend at work heard me talking and she asked, 'Have you thought about going to Spain?' I jumped on the internet straight away."

In September, Sharee and her mum Trish James, 60, travelled to Spain for donor embryo implantation with IVF Spain Alicante.

"It took 37 hours to get there and I was awake the whole time," remembers Sharee. "I was so excited and didn't want to miss a thing."

She can't speak highly enough of the fertility staff in Spain, who made her feel comfortable as soon as she arrived. Under the plan she paid for, Sharee is guaranteed five donated embryos, but unfortunately, her first transfer wasn't successful so she will return next year.

In her living room is a precious reminder of the closest Sharee has got to motherhood – a sterling silver-framed photo of her six-day-old embryo the day it was implanted. "They told me it was a textbook perfect embryo," she explains.

In the meantime, Sharee is turning her grief into a quest to help others. She knows she's making a difference through her blog, but she's now putting together parcels for expectant mums who have struggled with infertility.

Each contains crystals she strings together, donations from friends and family, and gorgeous baby clothes made by the knitting team at Elmwood Retirement Home and Village in Manurewa.

And while Sharee is thankful for her many adopted nieces and nephews, for now, becoming a mum is a dream she's not ready to give up on.

"A baby would give me purpose and a sense of belonging," she says.

"I have so much to give and I want a child of my own to love."

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