It started in early 2009 when I saw my first ‘pregnant’ on a Clear Blue pregnancy test stick! Little did I realise what those illusive words would come to mean to me on what was to become a six-year journey.
It was a long battle for us, but with a lot of struggles in life, it comes with lessons learnt, hearts broken, silver linings and, ultimately, ended — luckily for us — with two precious baby girls. Their names are Eve and Erin and they are the light of our lives.
To be perfectly honest, I never thought too much about becoming a Mum when I was younger – I was too busy having the craic. I loved craic and anyone that was up for it, too. Things came and went easily for me when I was young; I didn’t think about things as much as maybe I should have, I just thought the natural progression in life was kids, so when things started to go awry I was, understandably, pretty devastated.
That positive test turned to negative within 24 hours. I had had a chemical pregnancy, which means a very early pregnancy loss that happens when an egg is fertilised but never fully implants in the uterus.
Turns out I was to get used to those words, chemical pregnancy, because I had many of them. That year we had two devastating blows when my other half’s younger brother tragically died at age 34 and he also lost his Mum. It was a tough year and baby-making went on the back burner.
It was mid-2010 when Kevin, my boyfriend, was still reeling from too much grief that I ventured into my GP to tell her how we’d been trying for a baby but with no success. I remember she looked at my wedding finger to see if I was married (we weren’t). She didn’t approve; I changed GPs.
My new GP referred me to Dr Kent Ayers, a New Zealand doctor based in Dundrum who evolved into a friend. He was funny, honest, charming and, above all, caring. He gave me practical advice and supported me and many, many other women through some dark times.
TTC, AMH, IVF, LU, LO – the acronyms are overwhelming. The whole thing is overwhelming – and yet you somehow become familiar with a world you really don’t want to be in.
I joined an infertility support group on rollercoaster.ie, but didn’t really find it very supportive – I blame myself for that; I simply wasn’t in the right headspace. I was getting used to the isolation of infertility – and it is isolating: it’s a lonely ol’ road, there’s no real chat about it with friends because no-one wants to bring it up in case they hurt your feelings. I get it, I’ve done the same in other circumstances. And when you don’t know what to say, you generally say nothing.
We started our first IVF in the Rotunda hospital in the HARI unit. I always enjoyed starting the process because you were actively doing something to solve your problem, rather than simply waiting….and, let me be frank, there is a lot of waiting.
I think one of the worst blows for me was the failure of our first attempt. I didn’t even get a chance to do a test – my period just arrived as if nothing at all had happened, as if I hadn’t injected myself every day for two weeks.
I hadn’t blown up like a balloon with bulging ovaries, I hadn’t had sleepless nights with the night-sweats from a down regulation that basically pushes you into a menopause-like state, and we hadn’t just spent thousands of euro – my period just arrived like it was another day.
I was in the bathroom in work and I remember it so clearly. I called one of my best pals who had experienced IVF herself; her words of support got me through that day and the coming days and weeks when you feel dazed, confused, sad, angry and heart-broken.
There were lessons to be learnt from that failure, and the biggest one for me was telling people. I had told half the nation that we were doing IVF and then, in turn ,you’ve to tell half the nation that it didn’t work. That in itself is difficult, but it’s made even harder because people are genuinely willing it to work for you; family and friends are dying for it to work for you – and when it doesn’t, they are devastated, too. So not only are you sad but everyone is sad with you.
As a result, you start to become private about it, and so the further into isolation you go. Granted, you have a few poor souls who know and they become your support network, but it’s a small group.
If I was to tell you about the following four years, I’d have to write almost five pages. To cut a long story short, we did 13 rounds of IVF. During those treatments, we had moved clinics, from the HARI unit to SIMS to a clinic in Prague before eventually finding success in Barcelona.
Although I’ve just summarised all of those IVFs into one paragraph, that paragraph was full of disappointment, heartbreak and soul-searching, but I never gave up hope. Hope springs eternal – quite simply, you’ve got to keep hoping!
If you are reading this and you are on the trying to conceive path, my heart is with you; you are not alone. Keep hopeful – and listen to your body and your gut.