We tried hard for a baby for years, and it was worth it
Author, nurse and midwife Mairead O'Driscoll is the proud mother of Tim, 17 months. He was born when she was 37, but it had been a struggle. She'd met Leonard at 25, married him three years later, and by 31, was a public health nurse in Aghada, near Midleton.
"Once we'd built our dream house, we thought a baby would be the next thing," says Mairead. "But it just didn't happen."
After six months of trying, the couple attended their GP. She suggested they should go to a clinic.
"That shocked me," says Mairead. "I've never been sick in my life and Leonard is healthy too. I couldn't believe my body would let me down."
She wasn't too worried, though. She felt sure the Cork Fertility Centre would soon sort her out. Mairead took the fertility drug Clomid for a year. Then she did six IUI's -- Intrauterine insemination. And she still wasn't pregnant.
"Then my sister gave me an article about NaPro, a scientific medical system of procreative health care. It's a very natural treatment based on a woman's own cycle. We spoke to people who had been successful using the method, and we seemed to fit the criterion. We attended Dr Phil Boyle in the Galway clinic for two years."
Mairead became pregnant.
"But unfortunately I had a miscarriage in 2006. That was tough. By then I was 35, and Dr Boyle felt my age was becoming an issue. That's when we decided to go for IVF."
The first two cycles failed. That was extraordinarily tough -- for Mairead, but also for Leonard. "People have the impression that you go for IVF and have a baby, but it's like going down the bookies and backing a horse," says Leonard.
"All of the treatment was stressful. In one year of trying, you have 12 disappointments. IVF was the final roll of the dice. It's emotional torture."
How did they get through?
"We discussed everything," says Mairead. "We were always on the same page at the same time. It wasn't, 'I want to stop and you don't.' That would be where problems start.
"We spaced out the treatments. We had to, because we'd decided not to go into debt over it, but that was healthy."
People's comments bothered Leonard.
"They'd say, 'Do you not want children?' and of course we did. And at work people would talk about holidays. They'd say, 'Where are you going', and we were broke from the IVF.
"It wasn't just the €5,000. There was acupuncture, supplements, and all the other stuff that goes with it."
When Mairead became pregnant, the couple were thrilled, but they didn't relax. They couldn't.
"I didn't relax until Tim was born and was alive," says Leonard. "I didn't relax until he cried. That was awesome."
Tim is now a gorgeous, happy child. The couple simply adore him. But they haven't forgotten the stress.
Mairead wrote about the experience for her latest novel, A Moment in Time, charting the course of IVF treatment. There's been amazing feedback.
"Someone stopped me in the street this week and said she was reading my book. Her daughter was on the third cycle of IVF. She said she could now understand the emotions her daughter was going through."
Will the couple now try for a sibling for Tim?
"Ninety-nine per cent no," says Leonard. "When people ask that, they mean, 'Do you want another baby?' If we could be sure we'd get another Tim, of course we'd do it. We're saying 'no' to the stress; to the constant disappointments."
For more information, contact Sarah Leather, Natural Fertility Consultant , www.thebabymakingclub.com; National Infertility and Support Group, www.nisig.ie