I started researching surrogacy in the middle of 2012. My first port of call was to contact the fertility clinic we had attended in Ireland. I wanted some advice and enough information to allow us to make informed decisions. We naively presumed that in Ireland it was everyone's right to be able to access information and advice. However, the clinic wouldn't and couldn't speak to us because surrogacy is not permitted in Ireland. As there is no legislation governing surrogacy, it is therefore neither legal nor illegal - and on that basis, no information can be provided
With no other option, and like a dog with a bone, I started researching online. Entering the word 'surrogacy' and hitting 'enter' produced an abundance of information. I read it all avidly and could even empathise with some accounts of their failures.
The Corion Clinic in Mumbai, India, was established in 2010 under the direction of Dr Kushal Kadam. Success rates were good and, importantly for us, there was no waiting time if we chose to go with an Indian egg donor as opposed to a Caucasian egg donor. In the overall scheme of things, whether the donor was Caucasian or Indian didn't matter a whit to us, and we were happy to go with an Indian egg donor, particularly when the waiting time was less.
I heard a slight click as the receiver was picked up and the word, 'congratulations' sounded over the line. Oh my God, it had happened! Shobha [the surrogate mother in India] was pregnant! I didn't have to say anything. Seán could read my expression. I asked if it was a single pregnancy or more. Before I had even finished the question, Dr Kadam replied, "almost definitely multiple".
Multiple! Oh my God!
The conversation was over as quickly as it had started. We didn't ask anything else. We could email later but for now I just wanted to hug my man.
The blood-test results the following week confirmed again that there was more than one baby, but did not indicate if it was twins or triplets. We would know for definite the following week.
Dr Kadam told us that the most recent scan showed three sacs. It was triplets. We were gobsmacked. What now? She informed us that they would wait for a few more weeks before making any decision; apparently sometimes there can be a spontaneous loss where triplets are expected. If this did not happen, however, they would have to carry out the reduction. I find it hard to even say the word 'abortion' but no matter what term or word is used to describe what may have to be done, either way it was extremely difficult for us to accept.
We tried for so long to get pregnant, and now, ironically, we were being told we might have to terminate one foetus; it was so unfair. It was terrible to be hoping for a spontaneous abortion, but we did. We didn't want to face the consequences. We hoped and hoped, but each week the report came back telling us that "all three foetuses were doing well".
Time for the reduction was drawing closer and while we are not religious people, I found myself pleading with my dead father and sister. I wanted Shobha to have a spontaneous termination. I'm sure Seán was doing the exact same, pleading with his mother and father. We got word that the 'foetal reduction' was scheduled for the next day, April 6, 2013.
Even as I write this now, I try very hard not to let it in, but I feel the same pain and overwhelming sense of loss and sadness as I did on that day, and the tears come again, for the loss of our second child.
We weren't sure about the documentary presenting this particular piece to the nation. We had known the consequences if it was triplets, and we knew what we would be facing.
We knew the decision would evoke much moral discussion in Catholic Ireland. Rightly or wrongly, people would judge us and criticise us. We would generate disapproval, anger and religious-based dissent, but above all else, we were exposing ourselves to more hurt and pain. Did we really need to expose our vulnerability by airing this most personal hurt on national television?
We had agonising discussions, but ultimately came to the realisation that in agreeing to make the documentary we had a responsibility to be honest. We had to be honest, particularly for those people who might consider going this road. It was our decision to go public in the first place so that other people could see surrogacy as a very real option, but in doing so we also had a responsibility to present the full story, warts and all.
We needed to give an honest account for the very same reason we agreed to make the documentary - so that couples could make informed decisions. It would have been very easy for us not to include this piece, but we are honest people and we had to allow its inclusion. On reflection, maybe that was a mistake, but only in so far as it serves as a constant reminder. Do we need that reminder? No, we don't. For us, there will always be three.
We could see our babies developing and growing each month, but in a kind of surreal way. I wasn't pregnant. I wasn't going through the experience of pregnancy, and we weren't having the usual check-ups associated with pregnancy. Instead we were relying on reports and scan results from another place and time.
We worried constantly that all would be okay. Then we worried if we would bond, and what if we didn't. We worried how we would manage with two babies. Would we have the energy for all this at our age? We had so many worries.