Three sisters join forces to conceive a second baby
LUCY LAING - Last updated at 22:41pm on 5th August 2007
Two women who joined forces to produce a baby for their infertile sister hope to make history by performing the same feat again.
Alex Patrick, 34, has a two-year-old son, Charlie, conceived from an egg donated by her twin, Charlotte Pestell, and carried by her elder sister Helen Ritchie, 37.
Now the trio will attempt a surrogacy first by repeating the process.
Mrs Pestell said: "We have some frozen embryos left from last time, so hopefully I won't have to donate any more. But if I need to, I will.
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Charlie with his three 'mothers': Egg donor Charlotte (left), Alex (centre), and Helen, who carried him
"Helen is happy to carry the second baby, and our husbands are all happy again for us to do it again and help Alex have a little brother or sister for Charlie."
The extraordinary process started when Mrs Patrick, 34 , was diagnosed with cervical cancer in November 1999. Doctors told her that the chemotherapy treatment she needed could leave her infertile.
Mrs Patrick, an environmental consultant, who lives in South East London with husband Shaun, 41, an engineer, said: "Being told that I would never have a baby hit me almost as hard as the diagnosis itself."
Her treatment was a success, but she remained devastated to be unable to have a family.
She said: "Every time I saw a baby, I was just filled with longing to be a mother."
Her twin Charlotte, who has three children aged four, six and nine, offered to donate her eggs to Alex, but because of her cancer treatment she could not carry a baby to full term, and Charlotte had suffered problems with her own pregnancies.
So elder sister Helen stepped in and offered to carry the baby, using Mrs Pestell's donated eggs. Mrs Pestell said: "I would have found it difficult to carry a child that had been conceived from my eggs, and then give it up.
"By Helen carrying the baby, it would mean that it wasn't biologically connected to her in any way, so it would be easier for her to hand over to Alex. Helen was happy to carry the baby - we all called her the "tummy mummy".
The treatment began in 2004. Six of Mrs Pestell's eggs were fertilised with Mr Patrick's sperm, and two days later two embryos were implanted into Mrs Ritchie's womb.
Mrs Patrick said: "We got together two weeks later and when the pregnancy test was positive we all burst into tears, including our husbands."
Mrs Ritchie, who has two sons aged nine and seven, went into labour in June 2005 at her home in Bath, Somerset.
Mrs Pestell said: "Helen didn't even have time to get to hospital. Charlie was delivered in her front room, with Alex holding her hand. She handed the baby over to Alex."
Mrs Ritchie, a nanny, who lives with her husband Phil, 45, a freelance driver, said: "I wanted to see Alex happy.
"We thought it would be easier for me to carry the baby as it wasn't my eggs. It did feel strange at times, but it also felt natural."
Mrs Pestell added: "We had to have counselling to talk through the surrogacy. The counsellor asked me what I would do if Charlie ever turned up on my doorstep after a row with Alex and asking to live with me.
"I would send him straight home to his mum. He may have been created using my eggs, but he's Alex's child."