Up to 3,000 babies are born by In Vitro Fertilization in Ireland each year. There has been a rise in single women looking to have IVF treament, writes Arlene Harris, in Going through IVF alone.
Being a parent is a wonderful, enriching, fulfilling, lifelong experience – but it can also be terrifying and exhausting in equal measure. So usually it helps if there are two people to share the load and even then, at times it can all seem a little overwhelming.
But while many many people do a wonderful job of bringing up children on their own, some make the decision to not only get pregnant and raise a child by themselves, but also to go down the often emotionally-charged route of IVF without the support of a partner. Up to 3,000 babies are born by IVF in Ireland each year, and while latest CSO figures reveal that there are currently over 215,300 single parents in the country, it stands to reason that a certain percentage of these will have been conceived by women choosing to go it alone.
Declan Keane Director and Senior Clinical Embryologist with ReproMed Clinics says while it’s difficult to put an exact figure on it, he has seen a rise in single women looking to have IVF treatment.
“Since ReproMed clinics started in 2009, we have seen many more single women approach us for treatment options,” he says. “They all say they have been thinking of attending for a year or two before they actually do so – the biggest bravest decision is walking through my clinic’s doors.
*Claire Thompson is one of these brave souls. When she was 38 she was desperate to become a mother, but since her previous long-term relationship had ended badly, she joined the growing number of Irish women and decided to go it alone. However, things don’t always go to plan.
A willing on/off boyfriend agreed to provide the male side of the bargain with a written guarantee that she would not make financial demands of him in later life. “I know it sounds a little cold and callous, but I wanted things to be upfront right from the beginning,” says Claire, who is originally from London.
“We had a casual relationship physically but got on very well, so I wasn’t nervous about approaching him and was thrilled when he agreed. I told him I would expect nothing from him and insisted we put that in writing – but I also said he could be involved later on if he wished. So after signing some papers, we got on with the deed.
“However, several months went by and nothing happened, so as my biological clock was ticking, I decided I would go down the IVF route – this meant less physical involvement and a more clinical approach.”
The office manager, who lives in Dublin, made an appointment with a fertility clinic in Spain and set about putting the wheels in motion.
Having had a good job for years, she knew she would be financially able to cover the cost of IVF but wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil it would involve.
“I have friends in the UK who have spent tens of thousands on IVF so I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but I was prepared to go the distance,” she says. “I went over to Barcelona for a week to have preliminary talks and start the procedure. I felt very nervous and out of place in the waiting room as I was the only person who was there on my own. “But I told myself that I was doing it for my baby and it would all be worth it in the end.”
When the eggs were ready to be harvested, Claire flew to Spain again with her friend, *John, who provided the necessary sample which would hopefully fertilise her eggs. They were then transplanted into her womb and all she had to do was wait. “After transplantation, I was so excited and absolutely sure that I was finally going to become a mother,” she says.
“I really looked after myself by taking vitamins, eating well and not drinking, so you can imagine my utter horror when my period arrived bang on time. “I was so upset and just couldn’t believe that it hadn’t worked out – I had pinned all my hopes, not to mention a hefty portion of my bank balance on this (I had to also pay for flights and accommodation), and it didn’t work. “And the hardest part of all was the fact that I didn’t have anyone who really understood how I felt. John was sympathetic as were my friends, but I didn’t have a partner who wanted this to happen as much as I did and I really felt alone for quite some time.”
But refusing to be defeated, the following year, Claire decided to give it another try and once again, psyched herself up for the process and the potential rollercoaster of emotions. “Despite being emotionally drained from my first attempt, in some ways I was a little stronger when I tried again,” she admits.
“I knew that failure was a possibility and had prepared myself a little bit more. Nonetheless, it was still very difficult and the waiting for news was torturous, but when I went back for my return appointment, I was told that the process had been successful and not only would I have one baby, but I was going to be the mother of twins – I could not believe it.
“I was so happy, I thought I would burst – it was a little sad that there was no-one there to share it with me, but I rang my mum in London and she was over the moon. I also told John who was a little taken aback, but pleased at the same time and I felt that even though I had absolved him of parental responsibility, he would want to be involved in our children’s lives.”
Claire gave birth to healthy twin boys and couldn’t be happier. And since becoming a parent, her relationship with their father has strengthened and he is regular visitor to her home. “I have recently turned 40, so life really has just begun for me,” she says. “I have two beautiful babies and their dad is spending a lot of time with us all now – so who knows what the future will hold.”
*Names have been changed.
IVF: What to expect step by step
- Step 1: The intake interview.
- Step 2: Preliminary tests and talks.
- Step 3: Drugs to induce egg growth.
- Step 4: Egg harvesting.
- Step 5: Embryo transfer.
- Step 6: The outcome.
IVF Treatment in Ireland costs start at around €4,000.
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Surrogacy in Ireland