Monday 29 May 2017

The time is now

AS a writer you are often encouraged to 'write what you know', and Mairead O'Driscoll has certainly heeded that advice in her new novel A Moment

in Time, which sees the main protagonist, Laura, struggle to conceive and battling with IVF.

"In this case I knew the topic in detail because I was going through IVF around that time. I had never written about it before and I don't know what changed but I started writing this book before my final cycle of IVF."

Like most couples, it never crossed O'Driscoll's mind that she might have problems conceiving, but when it didn't happen after a couple of years of marriage she and her husband Leonard decided to go along to her GP for some tests. Then came the long and difficult road of fertility treatment, starting with fertility tablets, then IUI (inter-uterine insemination), 'Napro' (a natural fertility treatment based on one's cycle) and finally IVF, of which the first two attempts failed.

" Yes, it was tough. But then again there are people who have had seven or eight failed cycles so we knew we weren't unusual."

O'Driscoll, who as well as being a writer also works as a public-health nurse in Cork, admits the side-effects of IVF – chief among them mood swings – are not nice, but says her training as a nurse helped her with unpleasant tasks such as the daily injections. "Because of my job I was very tuned into that side of things. It wasn't too alien to me."

She and her husband were also aided by an "optimism that it would happen eventually", which meant they did not become overly despondent when the first two attempts failed.

"A bit like Laura and Barry in the book, Leonard and I are fairly practical, level-headed type of people so there were no hysterics when it didn't work out. We just kept to ourselves for a while and recovered in our own little way".

Eventually, after her third cycle and aged 36, O'Driscoll fell pregnant although she says she didn't have the sense of elation some might have expected. "I was very conscious that something could go wrong. I was kind of afraid to believe it until I had the evidence before me!" Novelist Mairead O'Driscoll opens up to

Bernice Mulligan about how her personal experience of IVF was the inspiration behind her latest novel, A Moment in Time

Luckily, nothing did go wrong and on 16 April 2009 her beloved son Tim was born.

In terms of her writing career, O'Driscoll admits to being somewhat "naive" about the publishing game when she first started writing. "I didn't have any writing background except for the fact that I was always good at English. One day I decided I'd like to try my hand at a novel, and so I wrote 50 pages and sent them on to Paula Campbell in Poolbeg. She liked them and told me to keep going. I did, and in 2006 my first book, Pebble Cove, was published. It's only now, when I hear people's horror stories of rejection, that I realise how fortunate I was."

O'Driscoll's writing life has changed since the arrival of Tim. "Previously I might write for the whole day at the weekends or on a bank holiday but I can't do that anymore. It's a different time of life for me. Tim is a little over one now, and that first year is so special, but so busy. My writing is done more piecemeal now."

O'Driscoll says her publisher Poolbeg was a tower of strength when she was going through IVF. And she says the reaction to this, her fourth book, via

has been great, which is no doubt linked to the fact that one in six Irish couples have difficulty conceiving.

For any couple considering IVF, O'Driscoll advises the following: "Look after yourself and your partner; try to keep your relationship on track and not get grumpy with each other. Also, do it at your own pace. People react very differently to the process. Some are on their 10th cycle and are okay; for others, just one cycle is very hard to get through."

She also believes you need to be " together in your goals" and be honest when it comes to communication.

" I know some couples who've separated because one wanted to continue and the other didn't. That can be a huge issue, so I think you need to respect the other person and be mindful of where they're at with the whole process."

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