going through IVF alone

Going through IVF alone

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.

More like this:

Top tips to boost your fertility
December is the best month to conceive
Surrogacy in Ireland


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.