Nine-month-old baby Daithi has a lovely, friendly smile. It's also clear he's a bright, curious little fellow. What is not so obvious is the fact that he is something of a miracle baby; he's the child his mother thought she would never have.
Rose Morrisey, 31, led a fairly normal life growing up in Co Tipperary. One of four children, she went into childcare when she left school and loved it. She had already met her future partner and, as their love deepened, she began to think about having a family.
However, when Rose was 13, she had been diagnosed with Turner syndrome, an abnormal chromosomal condition that can affect fertility.
She had been warned that, as it might be difficult for her to have a baby, she should start trying at a young age.
"In my mid-20s, we tried to conceive, but nothing happened, so we went to a clinic, where they said it would be 'almost impossible' for me to fall pregnant," Rose recalls.
Rose's main problem was an inability to ovulate; in other words, her body was unable to produce eggs that could be fertilised. She needed donor eggs and these, she was told, were available in Spain. To avail of this service, she would undergo treatment in Ireland to prepare her body for pregnancy. She would then go to Spain on at least two occasions for consultations, and for the transfer of the donor eggs.
However, she and her partner did not feel this was a viable route for them. "We had work commitments, there were language barriers, and then the ladies over there are quite dark and I'm pale, so we considered all of that," Rose explains.
But, along the way, she had heard mention of another possible solution less than two hours away. Sims IVF is a Dublin-based clinic specialising in reproductive medicine and, early in 2012, she called them. "They said they could do everything for us," recalls Rose.
"We then had a consultation in Dublin. After that, they did tests. They wanted to be 100 per cent sure I couldn't conceive naturally. A few days later, we were accepted for the programme."
The first step was to take medication that would prepare Rose's body for pregnancy. She was given oestrogen, folic acid and primrose oil over the course of the next eight months. "They encouraged my body to have a period, so it was ready for conception," she says.
The donor eggs would come from a woman living in the Ukraine.
Rose was allowed to choose. "I was given a password to go online and begin the selection process – there were about 15 donors available to me. We were given their medical history. Some even had pictures of themselves as children. I selected a donor that was of similar build and characteristics to myself and my partner."
Rose had copies of the profiles printed out and then she and her partner scrutinised them, looking for the ideal donor; but they were careful to keep the whole process light-hearted.
"We didn't want to get bogged down in 'Oh my God, what are we doing?'" says Rose. It took the couple just two days to decide on the donor.
"No names are used. Each woman has a number. She will never know who I am, and I will never know who she is," Rose explains.
Once Rose had made her decision, the focus then shifted to the donor.
"The donors go through a medical screening process, while their fertility is already proven [they have had at least one child]," she says.
Once the eggs had been harvested, they were carefully transported to Dublin to be fertilised by Rose's partner's sperm. Once this had happened, the next step was to return to the clinic in Clonskeagh. "My partner wheeled me into the theatre, where an embryo was transplanted into my body. We were there at the time of conception and watched it being recorded. It was like a flash of light across the screen," Rose says. "They said, 'There's your baby coming to meet you.' I was shocked, but thrilled too."
Two weeks later, it was confirmed that Rose was expecting.
"After that, it became like any other pregnancy. Falling pregnant was the difficult part for me," she says. "In this case, egg donation allowed me to go through a normal pregnancy. I attended my local maternity hospital. I had morning sickness for a while; I got to experience the baby growing within me and I saw the scans. After our first scan, we shared our news with our family and friends, who were absolutely delighted for us."
On May 20 of last year, master Daithi made his appearance and no one was happier than his parents – their lives were complete.
Rose has nothing but praise for the whole process.
However, she is aware that there may be stigma around fertility issues.
"Even with IVF [in vitro fertilisation], it seems people are scared to talk about it, and I don't think that's right," she says. "I think thousands of people in Ireland are having fertility treatment, but they don't feel able to talk about it. It is their right not to talk about it if they so wish.
"However, they shouldn't feel they can't talk about it publicly, either. It was never a big issue for us because it was part and parcel of us bringing our baby into the world. At the end of the day, I am Daithi's mammy, and his daddy is his daddy. I now have a baby to nurture and love, thanks to the procedure."
However, Rose is conscious that it is important that she is honest with her little boy from the outset. "When the time is right, we'll tell him we needed a tiny bit of help to bring him into the world," she says.
Graham Coull, of Sims IVF, says Ireland has one of the highest rates of infertility in Europe, with one-in-five people experiencing problems. Donor eggs are also in short supply. He says both situations are mainly caused by Irish women leaving it relatively late to have their children.
"Delaying pregnancy into the late 30s or early 40s may mean that a woman ceases to produce eggs, or only produces poor-quality eggs," he says.
"At this point, the couple may be advised to seek treatment with donated eggs. IVF, using donated eggs, has a significantly higher success rate than performing IVF with an older woman's eggs."
The final word goes to Rose.
"All children are miracles, but donor-conceived children are doubly blessed because they needed more help to find their way into the world," she says.
To enquire about fees at Sims IVF, or for further information, tel: (01) 208-0710 or see www.eggdonation.ie
Sunday Indo Life Magazine