Lifting my wine glass, I smiled.
‘Here’s to new friends,’ I toasted.
Jess worked with my dad and he’d just introduced us.
One drink became two, and by the end of the night I knew we’d be good friends.
At 31, Jess was two years older, and like me, she was desperate to be a mum.
But neither of us had found the right man to settle down with.
Over the next three years, we both had relationships and countless first dates, hoping one of them would turn out to be our happily-ever-after.
By the time I reached 32, I could practically hear the ‘tick, tick, tick’ of my biological clock.
I felt hopeless and Jess was the same.
‘I don’t want to give up on my dreams of being a mum,’ she said. ‘But time’s running out.’
We’d always joked about bypassing the relationship part and having babies on our own using a sperm donor. But I wondered if it really could be a possibility.
‘Why don’t we get pregnant on our own?’ Jess said.
I trusted Jess with my life and I knew we’d support one another just like a partner would.
The more we talked about it, the more sense it made.
So, we began researching the process of using a sperm bank and discovered a community of women having babies alone, calling themselves Single Mums By Choice.
We each thought about it realistically, calculating the costs of raising a child alone.
We visited a fertility clinic to assess our options and then underwent tests.
‘Why don’t we have a look at sperm donors?’ I said, feeling curious one night.
Meeting at a bar, we pulled out our laptops.
Then over drinks, we scrolled through different profiles, assessing their height, family history and everything in between.
‘It’s so surreal to think one of these men could be the father of my child!’ I said.
While I had planned to wait until I was 35, the tests indicated my fertility was declining and I realised it was now or never.
So, after six months, I told Jess, ‘I really want to do this.’
‘So do I!’ she said.
Thankfully, we were met with love and support from our family and friends.
By November 2018, we’d decided on our sperm donors and, two months later, Jess was inseminated.
Nine days after that, she rang me on a video call.
‘I think I’m hallucinating,’ she said, waving a pregnancy test in front of her camera.
‘No, you’re not,’ I shrieked, ‘It’s positive!’
As I had my insemination later that day, I was feeling hopeful too.
But two weeks later, those hopes were dashed when
I didn’t fall pregnant.
‘Next time,’ Jess told me.
Despite my disappointment, my excitement for Jess never wavered, and at six weeks, we went to her first scan.
I held her hand as we looked up at the screen.
Over the next few months, Jess’ pregnancy progressed well but my journey wasn’t so smooth.
By April 2019, I’d had three unsuccessful inseminations and I decided to try IVF.
Daily injections followed, before I had my eggs retrieved and fertilised with donor sperm.
Just over two weeks later, I rang Jess.
‘I’m pregnant,’ I said.
After five months of heartbreak, I sobbed with happiness and relief.
At my six-week scan, it was Jess’ turn to clutch my hand as we stared up at the screen.
The ultrasound showed I was carrying twins but a few weeks later, I lost one of the babies.
Then, a few days before Jess’ due date, the nurses noticed her blood pressure was high so she was induced.
Despite being five months pregnant myself, I was determined to be there for her.
I stayed by Jess’ side as the contractions took hold, and after 29 hours, she pushed her baby girl into the world.
‘Is she really mine?’ Jess said, gazing down at the bundle on her chest.
She decided to name her Maya and she was perfect.
Then at 38 weeks, the doctors noticed my baby had stopped growing.
I was induced, and now it was Jess’ turn to squeeze my hand as my contractions grew stronger and stronger.
Eventually I gave one last big push and moments later, the nurse shrieked, ‘It’s a girl!’
As she placed her in my arms, my heart swelled.
I named her Hannah Jane, and back home, I got to grips with being a single mum.
It was overwhelming at first, but both Jess and my family have been amazing.
Now, my little girl is five weeks old and she’s doing well.
And Jess and I bought houses next to each other!
I hope our story encourages other women to seek their own path to motherhood.
Because having a baby with my best friend made my dreams come true.
Jess, 36, says: 'As friends, we faced many highs and lows on our journey to become mums.
'It was incredibly hard watching Lauren struggle to conceive, knowing she longed for a baby. So when she fell pregnant, I was over the moon.
'Now, I can’t wait to watch our girls grow up together.'