By Hollie Bone
The dad of a miracle baby born after spending £60,000 on nine rounds of IVF has celebrated his daughter’s incredible journey by publishing a children’s book.
Dale and Marie Neal, from Barrowford, Lancs, were left devastated 10 years ago when doctors discovered legal secretary Marie had already gone through the menopause at just 36 and would never be able to conceive naturally.
Desperate to become a mum, Marie, 51, and Dale, 50, spent the next decade and £60,000 of their own money on nine rounds of IVF trying to get pregnant – finally welcoming their baby girl, Essie, into the world in August 2018.
Now, 17 months later, barber Dale has published his first children’s book, My Socks Have Gone Bonkers, to celebrate his daughter’s journey – after honing his creative writing skills penning short stories in the middle of the night during the couple’s heart-breaking struggle to have a baby.
Dale said: “A few years ago we were in a really dark place, we’d spent most of our money and things were looking like they weren’t going to work.
“I had no reason to think I was going to be published and we were becoming more and more helpless with trying to get pregnant.
“So to have them both, a published book, a book deal and our miracle baby is a better happy ending than I could have ever imagined.”
Dad-of-one Dale said he’s always had a passion for writing and started sharing his work online when the couple first started IVF in 2012.
Using his creative writing as an escape from the pain of trying and failing to conceive, Dale amassed a collection of short stories and poems for children, some of which he wrote in the middle of the night on his phone.
Now the passionate writer has brought all of his pieces together into one book illustrated by Mark Millicent in a collection published by Fantastic Books in November.
But holding a strong passion for hairdressing after 30 years in the industry, Dale insists he wants to keep his day job and will keep writing with hopes of publishing more books in the future.
Dale said: “There was a therapeutic element too, it was an escape from what was going on because when I’m writing I get so lost in it.
“I do hope that it will be a momento of that time for Essie when she’s older because they were all written while we were going through IVF.
“Some of them were written on my mobile phone in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.”
The couple started their journey into parenthood just before they married in May 2010 after meeting in their hometown in 2000.
But by the following year doctors had discovered that Marie’s irregular periods were a symptom of the fact she had already been through the menopause, and would need donor eggs to have any children.
Because at 37 and 38 the pair were already beyond the age threshold for IVF treatment on the NHS, they were forced to reach into their own pockets to make their dreams come true using any spare cash and savings on treatment
In total, Marie and Dale battled four failed attempts at IVF, three ectopic pregnancies and two miscarriages over the next five years before Marie conceived Essie in December 2017.
And after a nerve-wracking but successful pregnancy, the tot was born in August 2018 weighing 7lbs 13oz – a perfect addition to their family and have no plans to try for more children.
Marie said: “I knew it would take a while to get pregnant because of our ages and because I had been on the pill but I didn’t think it would happen 10 years later.
“I was never in a real rush or had a strong maternal instinct but when I was told that I couldn’t have children I realised how much I wanted them.
“It’s cost us a lot of heartache and an absolute fortune but I wouldn’t have anything another way.
“Knowing what we have now with Essie I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”