Finding a path through infertility
The high cost of treatments here and lack of donor egg options are driving the growth of ‘fertility tourism’
He and Anne are lucky, he adds, that they both still have the Catholic faith they grew up with, which has helped them through difficult times. Yet they are perfectly aware that their church doesn’t approve of what they have done. “We had to go with our own gut feeling on it,” he adds. “It was our only option in this life to have a child.”
Names have been changed.
The National Infertility Support and Information Group hosts a conference in Thomond Park, Limerick, on Saturday, September 14th. See nisig.ie for more information.
When Siobhán Boucher and her husband, Bill, had their first child, Rachael, seven years ago, fertility issues didn’t cross their mind.
It was only when they decided more than two years later that it would be good if their daughter had a brother or sister, that the problems started.
Siobhán became pregnant but it was ectopic – the embryo implanted outside the uterus – and she had to have her right fallopian tube removed.
“After that I was concerned that I wouldn’t get pregnant as easily. But I conceived again and had another miscarriage at eight weeks.”
When the couple went for medical investigations, it transpired there were fertility issues on both sides and they were shocked when advised that their best chance of having another child was through egg donation.
With one child already, it was a situation they had never envisaged.
Secondary infertility – the inability to have a second child – is talked about even less than general infertility, Siobhán believes. While there is more awareness now of the need for sensitivity when talking to childless couples, once you have one, you are “fair game” for inquiries about when you’re going to produce another.
It is not as if as you can even try to avoid the company of mothers and babies, as other women desperate to conceive sometimes do, because you are in the thick of it with your own child, she points out. And fellow infertility sufferers who are longing for their first baby are not going to be overly sympathetic either.
“I think you will find people who have no children are not particularly supportive even though all the same stuff applies in terms of grief and miscarriages and your want for another child.”
A tough year followed, recalls Siobhán, as she had to go back and deal with the grief of the miscarriages before thinking about what way to move forward.
She found great support through organisations such as NISIG and the Miscarriage Association of Ireland as she tried to come to terms with the dilemma facing them.
“We decided we would give IVF a go but with my own eggs and not a donor cycle,” she explains, although it wasn’t really recommended as the clinic reckoned the chances were slim. But the couple needed to do it for themselves – “to know that we had done everything in our power”. It wasn’t a success.
“We had already decided we would do only one cycle because it is the kind of thing you can get sucked into, cycle after cycle,” says Siobhán, who is a fertility coach (siobhanboucher.com) and runs a support group near her home in Castleknock, Dublin
“I am very sympathetic to people who go through IVF and have unsuccessful treatment because, in my eyes, that is actually like a miscarriage – it is just a matter of timing. They get even less support again. It is very, very tough.”
Siobhán (39) and her husband “took stock” and now “we’re in a good place – we decided not to go ahead with a donor”, she explains.
They felt, after having their own child, that conceiving a second with somebody else’s genetic material “didn’t fit. It didn’t work for us.” She thinks they would have considered it more if they hadn’t already had Rachael.
“We are happy with our lot and we are not chasing this dream any more. I think our chances [of conceiving] are as good naturally as they are through IVF – probably equally as remote – and there is no point in putting ourselves through that.”
It is a relief to no longer be cycle counting and worrying about doctor’s appointments.
Although, she adds: “We haven’t actually given up hope that there won’t be a little surprise.”