A mum-to-be has revealed her joy at her miracle pregnancy after she was diagnosed with unexplained infertility.
Denise Phillips (36), who is 26 weeks pregnant, cannot wait to welcome her bundle of joy after accidentally mistaking her growing baby bump for a tumour.
The Kildare businesswoman, who was diagnosed with unexplained infertility when was she was just 28 years old, discovered she was six months pregnant last Saturday when she began to grow concerned about her burgeoning baby bump.
The miracle news is all the more joyful as Denise and her husband Mark, from Newbridge, were forced to delay a cycle of IVF when the pandemic hit last year.
For Denise, who gave birth to her daughter Beth after her ninth round of IVF, her natural pregnancy can only be described as a 'miracle.'
"I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility when I was 28. I didn't ovulate, I didn't have a cycle, I didn't have a period, end of. Even with drugs, they found it difficult to get me pregnant. I did nine rounds of IVF before I had Beth.
"An immunologist specialist in Sims Clinic said because there's no activity in my ovaries my eggs could never grow without drugs."
The hairdresser and salon owner has openly documented her IVF journey @denise_bethphillips as well as regularly updating her 50k-plus followers about her joy at finally becoming a mum.
"I have been on my IVF journey for a decade. All I ever wanted was a baby and that came true when I had Beth. I haven't had a period since I was 23, there isn't even a packet of Tampax in my house, to say a natural pregnancy is a shock would be an understatement. "
When Denise experienced bleeding last October, she put it down to stress.
"I was staying in my mam and dad's and my dad asked, 'do you have your period?' I was like, hardly, I don't get a period' and then I went in and saw blood in the bed and thought that's weird. I thought that it was work-related stress.
"November came and, obviously, I didn't get my period and then December came and I didn't get one and I thought nothing of it.
The fitness enthusiast began to complain of unexplained weight gain when in reality she was close to six months pregnant. I always have a flat stomach so even when I'm holding weight it clings to my legs and hips, never my stomach.
"I had a flabby belly and I was exercising and doing yoga. I felt so bloated and it was out of the ordinary for me, I was pounding the pavement and covering up in baggy clothes because I was so uncomfortable.
"I ordered low-calorie meals and they included pasta and I never normally eat pasta so I began blaming that on my weight gain."
Convinced that something more sinister was at play, the devoted mum said: "I actually thought I had bowel cancer at one point, I said to Mark 'I swear to god there's something wrong with me, I have bowel cancer.'
"I went to the doctor nearly two weeks ago and I was checked over and given a clean prep and booked into hospital to get the camera up and down. It wasn't even a thought to check for pregnancy because it wasn't even a possibility."
As the days wore on, Denise finally realised that she was expecting.
"I remember saying, 'I actually feel like I'm pregnant' but I never thought for one second that I was. I know that sounds hard to believe but when you have been told that you will never naturally conceive you believe it.
"It was only when I was doing yoga last week and my belly button popped when it finally clicked that there was a human being in my body."
Six pregnancy tests later, the couple were still grappling with the news that they were to become parents for a second time.
"My consultant told to me 'if someone had said to me to put a patient forward that would possibly get pregnant naturally you would be the last patient I would put forward.'
"I asked for an explanation and she said simply; 'you got a period and you ovulated two weeks after and got pregnant.'"
Turning to meditation and mindfulness in lockdown, Denise said: "I feel like when I actually accepted who I was, and what I was and became so grateful for all I had then God or faith or whatever said 'now you can have more.'
"I probably had the best year of my life last year and because of that I just said to myself, 'what are you doing putting your family to IVF again, so we decided in September to stop.
"I was so sick of chasing a dream and not being happy, of wanting a Gucci bag, a bigger house, a Range Rover. I started to practise compassion, gratitude and forgiveness and incorporating that into my daily life. I had Beth, I had my husband, a business and a beautiful home.
"I never stopped to enjoy what I had because when you're doing IVF treatment you become a completely different person.
"And now it's like I've slowed down and this miracle has happened. All I ever wanted was to give Beth a sister or brother."
Denise has openly documented her fertility struggles, previously featuring in TV3's all-access documentary, The Babymakers, which followed the couple's harrowing journey to parenthood.
"This may sound strange but while I am hoping and praying that my baby will be healthy, if this pregnancy ends at least I know I can actually get pregnant naturally.
"I remember where I was when I heard the news about Rosanna Davison but I still never thought it could be me. She miscarried multiple times but she could actually get pregnant. She didn't have IVF or surrogacy because she couldn't get pregnant, she had it because she couldn't hold on to her pregnancies so she's different to me, my track record was failure."
Speaking of her infertility diagnosis and her IVF journey, Denise said: "When I was told I was infertile I became somewhat cold. I was no longer Denise, I was the infertile woman struggling to have a baby.
"I was used to the fact that my body didn't work in the correct manner,. The acceptance part of being infertile changes you because you go into a dark place.
"I was consumed about becoming a mother. I didn't care about anything else. Denise, the sister, the friend, the wife, stopped existing. I started in Sims two days after we came back off our honeymoon.
"I wouldn't have cared if I wasn't married once I had a baby. My marriage, my friendships, my relationships became so unimportant to me that I can't even describe it. Your friends are afraid to even talk about their pregnancies, your husband is afraid to go for a drink.
"When I think about it, I do not know how Mark stayed with me. I used to say to him, even when Beth was born, 'I couldn't give a flying f**k if you walk out that door, I have what I want, I have my child.' I didn't care about anything other than my baby."
Speaking to those who are on an IVF journey, she said: "A fertility survivor isn't someone who's just done the fertility; it's their mom or dad or brother or sister or friends, it's everybody around them. That's never spoken about because a lot of people do it behind closed doors every single day, which is why it's so important to speak to people and get support."