A COUPLE from South Yorkshire who feared they might never have children are proud parents - after their ‘miracle’ family was made possible by sperm donation.
David and Debbie Billard battled David’s leukaemia and years of heartache before defying the odds to conceive through the unusual fertility method.
Despite a less than 10 per cent chance of success, eldest son Joseph, aged four, was born, followed by two-year-old brother Samuel and latest addition, baby Bethany, five months ago.
David, 45, said: “Sometimes we do sit down and think ‘we are so fortunate’ because at one point having a family was looking doubtful.
“I would describe it as a miracle.
“When people conceive naturally there is always a story behind each birth and there is with our children.
“That’s what makes them extra special, because of the circumstances and the odds that were stacked against us for so long.”
When David, of Aughton, between Rotherham and Sheffield, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1996 the couple had his sperm frozen as it can be affected by chemotherapy.
But after his treatment it was found to be unsuitable and on thinking ‘long and hard’ they decided to try sperm donation, going through nine cycles of costly IVF and several early miscarriages.
In 2006 doctors urged them to try one last time with their final embryo - estimating a tiny chance it would succeed.
Nine months later eldest son Joseph was born.
Two more treatments - using the same donor sperm, so the siblings have matching genetics - worked immediately each time.
Diane, 41, added: “It just didn’t feel like the family was quite finished, we just felt so lucky and blessed that we’d got through the leukaemia.
“We’d always wanted to have a family and it felt right to carry on.
“I never thought we’d have three children. There were days when it was really hard and we felt ‘is this ever going to work?’ but we always had hope.”
David and Diane had two IVF cycles on the NHS, saving up for the rest at the CARE Fertility clinic in Nether Edge, Sheffield.
The donor sperm had been given anonymously but the law has since changed so children can seek the identity of donors at 18.
Now David and Diane are urging more men to give the gift of a child.
Diane said: “If men didn’t donate sperm we wouldn’t have the family we do.
“We’ve been very lucky, and I know it’s a lot more difficult now as people are being put off because it isn’t anonymous.
“But for what we have, I couldn’t thank the donor enough.”
n CARE Fertility has an online questionnaire at www.carefertility.com for men to apply to donate sperm.