They say you can’t put a price on happiness but in the case of Helen and Marc Proctor you certainly can.
In the last seven years they have suffered three miscarriages, six gruelling rounds of IVF and spent a total of £90,000 to fulfil their dream of having a family.
Despite their heartbreak, the couple never gave up, pouring all they had into fertility treatments to help Helen conceive and have 12-week-old baby Blake.
“All I ever wanted to be was a mother and for so long it felt like that might never happen,” says Helen, 34.
“The money, the pain and the time were all absolutely worth it. All the upset from losing three babies and the physical and mental scars are a distant memory.
“I look at Blake now and all of that means absolutely nothing. It was worth every penny.”
Ever since their second date in 2002 the couple from Southampton had spoken about how much they wanted children. And after marrying in 2007 they started trying for a baby straight away.
But with ex-Marine Marc working for a private security firm in Iraq he was away for eight weeks at a time, leaving the couple little opportunity to conceive.
After a year with no luck they decided Marc, 33 should take a year off to focus on Helen getting pregnant.
Ten months later when there was still no joy and with healthcare assistant Helen not meeting the strict age criteria for IVF in their area, the couple begged their local clinic, Wessex Fertility, for help.
Helen says: “We knew something was up but doctors just told us we were being impatient. I knew there was an underlying issue and I was willing to do everything I could to get to the bottom of it.”
Helen paid £60 for a test at a private clinic and was devastated when the results showed she had a low egg count – meaning it would be impossible to conceive naturally.
So with IVF their only option, in January 2009, they paid £8,000 for their first round at Wessex Fertility. But although two embryos were transferred, both failed.
Helen went through another two rounds that year, which cost another £16,000.
But sadly again, both attempts failed “I shut myself off and turned into a recluse, it was a really trying time,” she says.
Adds Marc: “Working in Iraq while Helen was at home trying for a baby was horrific but I’ve been doing my job so long, the dangers don’t faze me.”
“In the early days she used to worry about me but it’s all about providing for my family so I will go to the four corners of the world, even if I hate where I am.”
Helen then had further tests which revealed she had endometriosis, making it even more unlikely they would be able to conceive. “Still that didnt stop us,” says Helen. “Although it felt like blow after blow, I never wanted to give up.
“We went to a top Harley Street clinic for round four and that cost us another £9,000. We also had to pay for travel up to London every other day.
“It was exhausting and we were rinsing our savings but we didn’t care.”
But when round five failed, Helen hit an all-time low.
She says: “It was devastating but we were so incredibly lucky that Marc’s job allowed us to pay for more IVF. I kept telling myself that as long as I could keep taking the knock-backs, it would be worth it.”
Finally, after another doctor told Helen her eggs were dark, grainy and poor quality, she was advised to use an egg donor.
“I was fine with the idea but Marc didn’t take it very well. It took him a long time to come to terms with the idea.”
Fortunately, after a night out with his friends and a few wise words from his best pal, Marc agreed to go ahead.
Going back to their local fertility clinic, the couple discovered a new rule was in place, ensuring all egg donors were on a register, allowing their children to track them down later in life.
She says: “We really didn’t want our baby to go looking for their egg donor when they got older. We wanted more than anything to be a tight family unit. Luckily our clinic had a sister centre in Alicante in Spain where the rule wasn’t in place.”
Tests and scans were all done in England and the couple flew out to Spain last March to have the eggs implanted.
“I could not believe it when I found out I was pregnant with twins. We howled and howled, it was unbelievable.”
Sadly, at seven weeks the couple were told one of the babies hadn’t survived and Helen had a surgical abortion. Three weeks later, the other twin had also died.
She says: “It may sound strange but this actually gave us hope. For the first time I had proved that my body could do it.
“But Marc went back to work and I was all alone, it was a horrific time for me. My body was battered. But I sat up one day in September and vowed enough was enough.
“I got out of bed and hit the gym really hard and by October, I was ready to go again.”
On December 5, 2013, Helen had two embryos transferred and tested positive four days later.
She says: “I was scared. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to go through the whole process again.”
But a month later a scan showed she was carrying twins and confirmed both had strong heartbeats.
Afraid of miscarrying, anxious mum-to-be Helen had a scan every 10 days to check the babies were OK.
A due date of August 27, 2014, was given but on April 28, Helen’s waters broke.
She says: “Marc was in Iraq and I went to hospital alone. I had a very dark conversation with a consultant who told me both babies would die.
“I was sent away on bed rest. The hope was I’d stay pregnant a few more weeks without going into labour.”
Helen managed six days at home before her labour started. The first baby was born on May 4, weighing 1lb 6oz, but died 45 minutes later.
She says: “My labour then stopped and doctors gave me steroids to strengthen the second baby’s organs. I was in such an unbelievable emotional state.”
Nearly 36 hours later Blake was born.
He was the size of a Coke can at just 1lb 6oz. He had a perforated bowel and was on a ventilator. He even had an open valve in his heart and needed open heart surgery to survive.”
Miraculously, after seven years, six rounds of IVF, three miscarriages and £90,000, Blake came home in September.
Now 12 weeks old he weighs a healthy 9lbs 7oz although he needs oxygen to breathe and more than 20 drugs a day.
Helen adds: “No words can describe how it feels to hold him in my arms, it’s the most natural feeling in the world. No amount of money or pain will ever be able to taint the incredible feeling of being a parent.”
Adds Marc: “I’d go through it a million times just to have my son.”