A perfect match: How Lister Fertility Clinic helped two fathers-to-be

Paul is sitting in his home in Belfast, with his husband Neil and their beautiful three-month-old son Felix, talking about their journey to fatherhood – a journey that the Lister Fertility Clinic, part of HCA Healthcare UK, accompanied them on.

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“We both come from really family orientated backgrounds, so it was quite important for us to take that step,” he says.

“When you’re growing up gay,” Neil adds, while giving Felix his morning bottle, “sometimes you don't think you’re ever going to have a family. But we knew we wanted to before we got married, so we started looking into our options.”

Of those options, surrogacy was the one they felt was right for them, so they approached Surrogacy UK.

“Their friendship-first ethos really spoke to us,” Paul enthuses, “and their board is made up of intended parents who have gone through the process, and previous surrogates, so you're getting a huge wealth of knowledge,”

In fact, it was through Surrogacy UK, that Paul and Neil received a recommendation for the Lister Fertility Clinic, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

“We live in Northern Ireland,” continues Paul, “and our local fertility clinic doesn't have a same-sex surrogacy pathway. We knew we’d be choosing a clinic in mainland UK, so when we got the recommendation, we thought we should reach out. Right from that initial meeting, we knew they were the right clinic for us.”

With COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions still having an impact, regular visits weren’t going to be easy for the couple. Thankfully, the Lister had put plans in place.

Making things simple

“They’d devised a virtual pathway for surrogacy during the pandemic,” Paul recalls. “It meant we didn’t have to be there in person for our meetings or counselling sessions – which was perfect.”

At this stage, the Lister’s involvement was around embryo creation. Then, when Paul and Neil had formed a team with their surrogate, they would carry out the transfer. The couple were also working with an egg donation organisation, but things weren’t going so well on that front, leaving them both feeling frustrated.

During an appointment at the Lister, Paul and Neil mentioned the difficulties they were having, and the conversation couldn’t have been more timely. Neil picks up the story…

“The team mentioned they had a new egg donation pathway,” he says. “And they had a profile that they thought ticked every box for us.”

“We'd had such a good experience up to that point with the Lister,” Paul continues, “so we felt like we were in safe hands. It was a brilliant solution that just turned it all around for us.”

It certainly made life easier. Having had three parallel processes in place to form a team with their surrogate, source the eggs from an anonymous donor, and create the embryo, the couple were now able to simplify the process.

“They moved things around so we could meet with Diana and the egg donation team,” Paul recalls. “We felt they were they were really keen to help – that nothing was a problem for them.”

This was on a Friday. By the Monday, Paul and Neil had the email that would change their lives – the team at the Lister had found the perfect donor for them.  

“We never doubted them, you know?” says Neil. “They're always so open, so patient-centred,” Paul adds.

Everything was now running in parallel, they just had to find their surrogate. Shortly afterwards, they met Georgina at one of the many social events organised up and down the country by Surrogacy UK. They clicked instantly.

“We didn't know her beforehand,” says Paul, “we just got chatting and thought she was a really nice person.” After messaging back and forth, and then getting to know each other in person over a three-month period, they were all on the same page, and decided to go ahead and form a team.

At the same time, the embryo creation was happening. Having made the decision to press ahead with 20 eggs, Paul and Neil were aware that the number of successful embryos was going to be much smaller.

“The Lister were excellent,” says Neil. “They made sure our eyes were open, and it was nice to have such close support from them.”


A race against the clock

As well-prepared as they were, and despite updates every other day from the team at The Lister, the next few days were nerve-racking. Then, the call came through. They had seven viable embryos. It was time to get everything together.

“Georgina also had a great feeling for the Lister, so they gave us counselling as a group, looked after us individually as patients, and brought us together on transfer day,” Paul explains. “There were people who we'd been in contact with throughout the whole process popping in to wish us all the best of luck. We felt like everybody was really cheering us on.”

This sense of positivity was hugely heartwarming for both the fathers-to-be and Georgina. With the complication-free transfer complete, it was soon time for the six-week scan. London traffic, however, had other ideas. 

“London was in gridlock because of the tube strikes,” recalls Paul. “We had to get from St Pancras to Chelsea and were running late. We phoned ahead because we were going to miss our appointment.”

The couple’s panic subsided immediately once they got through to the team at the Lister. “They told us not to worry and assured us they’d make it work,” he continues, smiling at the memory. “They said ‘Just get here when you can.’”

True to their word, staff at the clinic ensured everything went smoothly, with a consultant happy to step in at short notice to fit around Paul and Neil’s late arrival. “It was like nothing was a problem for them,” says Paul, smiling. “They were just really accommodating.”

And that sense continued through the whole journey. Felix was born, complication-free towards the end of 2023. And, even though the birth happened at an NHS Trust hospital, the couple’s connection to the Lister Fertility Clinic remained strong throughout. “We sent photos of Felix through to the team at the Lister, and they were so excited for us,” says Paul, “they printed them out and put them up on the wall.”

Neil continues, summing up their experience: “We felt supported at every stage. We knew that if things got too overwhelming later on, or we had any issues at all, we could always approach the Lister. And that’s because of the relationship they built with us.”

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Fertility specialist centre

Lister Fertility Clinic is widely recognised as one of the leading private fertility treatment centres in the UK. The clinic was established by Mr Sam Abdalla in 1988 and since opening, it has maintained its reputation as being one of the most successful IVF treatment clinics in the UK with over 21,000 “Lister” babies born.

Drawing upon our experience of treating over 2,000 couples per year, our highly skilled team of doctors, nurses, embryologists and counsellors are committed to providing you with a holistic and considered approach to investigating and treating a wide spectrum of fertility problems. This is supported by the very best medical and scientific services available in the field.