It is the brainchild of Andrew and Olivia Sanderson, two people who know all too well the pain of infertility.
In 2009, Andrew and Olivia Sanderson undertook IVF for the first and last time and did not enjoy the experience. They took the decision to adopt, and Olivia explains a little of what really hurt about their experience… such as cost pressures along with difficulty locating a reliable surrogate at home have pushed many UK intended parents to engage in more affordable surrogacy in Thailand, India, Ukraine, Georgia and even Greek Cyprus, Nepal and Mexico. “Where we live in the East Midlands, the NHS, at the time, only provided one cycle of IVF. We enquired at our local hospital, and because of our desperation to become parents found ourselves on a fertility conveyor belt.
“The treatment failed, and we were left bitter about the result. “What really stung was how little we did in terms of research – we just jumped at the first chance of IVF, not really knowing what our full options were.”
The seeds of a fertility exhibition series were sewn in 2013 after they adopted their first child – Olivia and Andrew started Routes to Parenthood. “Once we had our family in place we began reflecting on the choices people make about infertility and IVF. We certainly don’t regret adopting, but we knew we had jumped the gun and wondered if there was any way we could help others avoid the pitfalls that we fell into.
“I have been running exhibitions for nearly 20 years, so our immediate thought was to do something along these lines. We are very passionate about fertility and adoption, and we have acquired a fair bit of knowledge and experience over the years. We wanted to share this in the way we know best.”
In the UK, 3.5million people will encounter infertility. This equates to about 300,000 in Yorkshire, and 182,000 in Greater Manchester; areas covered by the first two Routes to Parenthood exhibitions. With the West Midlands and Scotland making up the four shows that are being organised for 2015, Routes to Parenthood have covered significant areas of the populous outside of the south-east of England, something that is vitally important to Olivia.
“Having gone to a fertility exhibition in London, we nearly didn’t make it because the traffic and underground were virtually at a standstill.
“We wanted to run shows outside of London to make it easier for people in other parts of the country to access the range of information that these sorts of shows have available.
“We asked ourselves, ‘Why make your potential customers come to you when you can go to them?’ And this was the first major point we wanted to introduce in our exhibitions.”
As well as reaching out to different locations, by running four exhibitions throughout the year, Routes to Parenthood gives individuals and couples multiple opportunities to visit a show. Olivia explains how this helps both visitors and exhibitors alike: “By having four shows, we are giving more people a choice of where and when they visit a show. If you live in Huddersfield, for example, your closest show is Leeds, which is about 30 minutes away. But if you can’t make that date, the North West show at Old Trafford is still less than an hour’s drive.
“For exhibitors, being at one show gives them the opportunity to really connect with the local community, but being at multiple shows, it not only allows them to reach more of the UK, but means they have a presence throughout the year.”
The Routes to Parenthood shows start in April, and end on October 4 at the Coventry Hilton. In 2015, the team are running four events, but are already looking at expanding the following year. “Infertility doesn’t discriminate, it isn’t exclusive to people in one area, and it doesn’t just affect people at one point during the year. Infertility is a form of loss, and affects people for weeks, months, even years at a time. Having multiple exhibitions allows people to visit shows at various points along their ‘fertility lifecycle’, and get the information they need at the vital time,” Olivia says.
Benefits to visitors
As well as giving people a wealth of information via their exhibitors, visitors will benefit from attending in a number of other ways, Olivia explains: “Part of our unique appeal, other than regionalising and serialising the shows, is how we treat the visitors at the show. Each exhibition is very much geared towards the visitor getting the most out of their day. They have given us their time so we need to reciprocate, and give them the information they are seeking.
“Our exhibitors will take care of information provision, but we take care of their comfort. At each show, visitor parking is free, with the exception of Yorkshire, where it starts at just £2.00. Parking is also adjacent to the venue.
“We also provide tea and coffee free of charge, and an area at each show for the visitors to relax and start to process the information that they are receiving. Talking about infertility is an emotional task, and we know that people sometimes need a moment to themselves.
“Finally, just as an added incentive, we are giving away four Kindle Fire HDs, one at each show. This really is a simple ‘thank you’ for people who take time out of their day to visit the show.” £1,500 Routes to Parenthood visitor draw
As well as the Kindle Fire HDs, a big part of the Routes to Parenthood series is the ‘£1,500 Routes to Parenthood visitor draw’: a prize which will be given out to four visitors (one from each show) where the recipient will receive £1,500 worth of fertility treatment, products or related services to be used with a show exhibitor.
Olivia explains the reason behind the draw: “Infertility is a cruel thing to suffer from. Not only does it rob people of a natural part of their life, it can cost a small fortune to get treatment for.
“With the NHS tightening its belts on IVF treatment, and some Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) just flatly refusing to fund it, we wanted a way to not only attract people to our shows, but for them to potentially benefit by visiting – to the tune of £1,500.”
“The money can be put toward a number of different things – fertility treatment, a range of products or services, or a combination. All we stipulate is that it is used with one of our exhibitors.” Routes to Parenthood opens on April 19 at the Leeds Royal Armouries. Tickets are just £5.70 per person if you pre-register online, or £7.50 on the door. To buy tickets visit routestoparenthood.co.uk/visiting.