The power to dash dreams – Fertility Treatment and Midwifery

Eppie Sprung, Next Chapter Scotland
February 26, 2024

I’ve always taken quite a pragmatic approach to the barriers I face because of my criminal record.  I try my best to be understanding of professionals when they feel the need to fill in additional paperwork and ask extra questions. I almost always manage to approach it all calmly without it adding too much stress to my plate.  Mostly, I’m able to handle it like this because I predict in advance when the barriers are going to appear and do everything I can to pre-empt and prepare for them.  But when I realised that there was a chance my conviction was going to stop me from having a baby, it was a massive curve ball.

In 2018, I began fertility treatment for my daughter as a single mother by choice (That means I was going through the fertility process without a partner). I’d chosen a clinic who specialised in treating single women, I’d selected the sperm donor I would use and was ready to sign the paperwork to begin treatment.  There’s a lot of paperwork invovled in fertility treatment and amongst the bundle was a “Welfare of the Child form”.

The first question: “Do you have any previous convictions related to harming children?”

My heart sank.

I was completely terrified that I would be denied the opportunity to even attempt to conceive.  I was also pretty angry because no-one who conceives naturally is asked to fill out a form beforehand, assessing their suitability.  It’s a pretty fundamental right, to be able to have a baby.  So (as anyone who knows me would be able to guess) I geared up for battle!

I asked my therapist for a character reference. I contacted my GP asking them to confirm they had no safeguarding concerns. I included information from my local Children and Familes Social Work department that confirmed there were no safeguarding concerns in respect of my godchildren.  I wrote a letter explaining my conviction, explaining how much having a child meant to me and attempting to justify my suitability.

And then I waited, terrified my dreams of having a baby would be dashed before I’d even had a chance.

It was the fertility clinic’s counsellor who contacted me to invite me in for a meeting. At that point she didn’t say what decision they had reached, just that she wanted to discuss it with me in person.  

I travelled to the clinic, mentally prepared to have to fight for my rights.  The counsellor took me into the room, sat me down and, before I said anything at all, assured me they were NOT going to hold my conviction against me.  They were going to let me have treatment. I burst out crying!

She explained that they didn’t feel my offence was relevant and that the character references and my letter had more than convinced them of my suitability.

This is one of those occasions in my life when complete strangers have renewed my faith in humanity’s ability to be compassionate and understanding and forgiving.  It reminded me that there are people out there who are prepared to look past the conviction and, instead, see the person standing in front of them – a bundle of flaws and dreams.

The barriers to having my daughter weren’t over quite yet though. I still had the midwife hurdle to get past.  

Again, it caught me off guard when, part way through my booking-in appointment (a long, long list of questions you need to answer when you’re around 12 weeks pregnant), my midwife asked me whether I had any convictions.  To her credit, when I replied to say I did, she had the decency to admit she actually already knew that I did and she knew what the conviction was for but that she’d needed to ask the question.  (My conviction was pretty high profile at the time, especially in the small town I live in, and it’s a bit of a bugbear of mine when people who know about my conviction pretend that they don’t)

She went on to explain that she’d need to refer my case through for a safeguarding assessment.  Even when you’re expecting the assessment to come up at some point, the fear that comes with the prospect that someone could remove your baby from your care is worse than I have words to explain.

Thankfully, they concluded their assessment pretty fast, with Social Work confirming they had no cause for concern.  

As I said at the start of this post, I try to be pragmatic and, rationally, I knew that they weren’t going to remove my baby from my care but, even with the rational part of my brain knowing that, it was still significantly more stress than I would have liked at the start of my pregnancy!

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