A brave woman has shared her struggles to become a mother after he generous younger sister stepped forward offering to be a surrogate.
Kayleigh Stephens, 31, has been trying to conceive with her husband, Nathan Stephens, for 10 years – but suffered health issues including an eating disorder and a cyst that got in the way.
And after two failed rounds of IVF treatment, her dream of having children looked even further away from becoming a reality.
But thanks to her heroic younger sister, Shauna Smith, she may have found the answer she’s been searching for.
Mum-of-three Shauna told of how heartbreaking is it to watch her sister “cry every day because she can’t have children”, Teesside Live reports.
The sisters, who both live in Lingdale, are just beginning their journey but have shared their story to raise awareness of the struggles some couples face in conceiving.
Kayleigh, a reablement assistant in a rehabilitation centre, said: “Since being a teenager I’ve always wanted kids.
“About 10 years ago, me and my husband started trying for kids.
“We tried for about two years and nothing happened and we weren’t falling pregnant.
“We decided to go to the doctors to see if there was anything wrong.
“We were referred to [hospital] and my husband’s tests came back fine – there was no issues with him.”
Kayleigh underwent keyhole surgery to investigate the matter further. The operation revealed that her fallopian tubes were blocked and she had a cyst on her ovary, along with a “heart-shaped womb”.
After two rounds of IVF, she became depressed and developed an eating disorder which added to the difficulties and saw her rapidly shed 10 dress sizes in three months.
“I lost quite a lot of weight quite quickly – I went from a size 16 to a size six in around three months,” she said.
“I was constantly exercising and living on caffeine. It was affecting my work too.”
Kayleigh was diagnosed with anorexia and put on a course of treatment including medications and therapy, after which her condition began to improve.
Now her health problems are starting to look better, she’s thinking about the future. She says that because her eggs aren’t “good quality”, the couple decided not to go ahead with another cycle of IVF.
Adoption was another option, but Shauna then stepped in and offered the greatest gift a sister can give – by agreeing to be a surrogate.
Kayleigh explained: “My sister offered to be my surrogate but we were looking at between £12,000 to £20,000 for one cycle of treatment.
“That’s a lot of money for me and my partner so we’ve researched and we’re going to do surrogacy from home.
“My sister is doing ovulation tests and we’re doing the insemination at home.”
The family say it is legal to undertake and Nathan will be the biological father of the baby, giving him parental rights from birth.
Kayleigh will then legally adopt the baby after six-months.
Shauna told how she has previously “fallen pregnant easily” and “sailed through” her pregnancies.
She told how it was “very difficult” when she had her two youngest children as she knew how “heartbreaking” it was for Kayleigh.
Shauna added: “I actually feel better when I’m pregnant, I feel healthier.
“Kayleigh has asked before and I’ve said no because I’ve had my own kids.
“But now I’m 110 per cent sure I don’t want any more.
“It’s going to be difficult and I’m scared but I know it’s not going to happen overnight.”