'I feared I would never have a family' - GP on the heartache of IVF and miscarriage
GP Janette McGuinness Davis endured IVF and the heartache of two miscarriages. Then, to her surprise, she conceived naturally. Not once, but three times ...
"I wasn't at all surprised when I heard that mummypages.ie had undertaken research which showed that over 60pc of women worry about their chances of conceiving and even less so that age is their biggest concern.
"As a GP, I have had plenty of experience of the worries surrounding this issue. And not long after John Paul and I got married, I began to look at my own fertility as we hadn't been using contraception for a year or two and as I was coming up to 35, I knew my chances of becoming pregnant were beginning to dwindle.
"Because of my job, I am very aware of the statistics surrounding fertility and probably began to worry a lot sooner than most people. So I broached the subject with John Paul and suggested we look into the reasons why I wasn't getting pregnant. Initially he thought I was being a bit pre-emptive but agreed to start the ball rolling as he could see it meant a lot to me. So we forged ahead and went to see a consultant for fertility tests, followed by ultra sounds and then more invasive investigations.
"Once all of these were complete, it was decided I was a case of unexplained infertility, which was extremely frustrating. I know that finding out you have specific fertility problems isn't a wonderful thing either, but at least there is a definite issue and steps can be taken to rectify it.
"While doctors were scratching their heads trying to figure out what was wrong, we decided to go down the treatment route. I was put on medication (to induce ovulation) but nothing happened. Then we went for IUI and after two rounds, we were still in the same position.
"At this point, a year had passed and I knew time was really of the essence, so we took a hard look at our finances and decided we would start IVF as we really wanted to get our family started. The whole process of IVF was incredibly gruelling and, to be honest, was one of the most difficult things I have ever done as it takes its toll on every aspect of your being - physical, emotional and psychological.
"The first cycle produced five viable eggs, two of which were transferred in the hope that a pregnancy would follow. Amazingly, it did and we were absolutely delighted. But at our first seven-week scan, the heartbeat was really low and I just knew it was game over. This was really awful and we were both absolutely devastated - the disappointment is very hard to describe.
"I found the grief overwhelming and I lost the baby in horrible circumstances, going into cervical shock while I was at work and had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance.
"We took a few months off to recover, then decided to have another go and our hopes were raised when we got a positive pregnancy test, but once again at seven weeks, we discovered the pregnancy had failed - it was devastating.
"We began to fear we would never have a family and would have to find a way to live our lives without ever celebrating birthdays, communions and Christmas with a child - it was very difficult to come to terms with.
"After the two miscarriages, we still had the finances for one more shot at IVF and decided to try again after a short holiday. But when we returned, tests revealed that the lining of my womb wasn't thick enough to receive the embryos, so everything was put on hold again.
"I was really distraught at this stage and feeling like there was no hope at all. But I was talking to a colleague at work about it and it was recommended I go to see a spiritual healer. As someone with a scientific background, I really wasn't convinced this would do any good at all, but I was in such a low place I thought it wouldn't do any harm.
"Throughout the 'treatment', the healer didn't touch me at all but said he was releasing blocked energy and knew there was a "soul in waiting" for me. I found that really upsetting and thought it was a very inappropriate thing to say to be honest. However, just four weeks after visiting him, I discovered I was pregnant. Both John Paul and I were totally in shock as were the consultants who really couldn't explain what had happened or why I had suddenly gotten pregnant - whether it was coincidence or divine intervention, who knows, but suddenly we were getting ready to become parents. We were utterly overjoyed.
"Our son Elijah is now three, but our family didn't end there as we also have Isaac, who is 20 months, and twin girls Sienna and India, who are seven months old. All were conceived naturally.
"It has been the most incredible journey and we still don't know how we managed to conceive naturally after all the treatment, stress and ups and downs beforehand - it really beggars belief.
"I turned 40 in March and I feel utterly blessed with my family. We went through the mill to try and create one little person and now we have four. Through the course of my work, I am acutely aware that so many people don't have this sort of outcome and I really can't explain it - it seems as if we had no control over our destiny. But however it happened, we are truly overjoyed with our family."