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‘When our last embryo failed, the clinic told us there was nothing more they could do for us’

Considerable perseverance and endurance are required when events appear to conspire and frustrate best-laid plans

Infertility is not something you can see or ever understand fully. Growing up in a big family, I assumed I would have children easily.

No one mentioned the alternative.

At school, we were only taught how easy it was to get pregnant. I spent many nights in college worrying I was pregnant. What would my parents think? I was not married, would I have to drop out of college? Where would I work? How would I manage?

Eventually, my period would come and the whole cycle would start again.


A few weeks before my wedding, I thought I was pregnant. I was in the shower praying that I wasn’t. How awful it would be, I wouldn’t fit into my dress or be able to have a glass of wine. How naive I was.

I got pregnant on my honeymoon. We did a pregnancy test on the last day. We were so happy, but when I look back, I think we expected it and took it very much for granted.

At our first scan at 12 weeks, there was no heartbeat. We had a “missed miscarriage” meaning the baby had died but there was no physical miscarriage. I was given tablets to express the pregnancy and it was gruesome. We went away for my parent’s anniversary and all I remember is haemorrhaging for three days in shock.

We continued trying every month – ovulation sticks, acupuncture, reflexology, herbal teas, you name it. Nothing happened. I went to my GP, who said I was stressed, that I was young and needed to relax. I should go on a holiday she said, that is how she got pregnant! She did not refer me on or even take a blood test.

Another six months passed, so we self-referred to a fertility clinic in Dublin. They did tests and said everything looked normal. We had got pregnant before so we were told we should come back after another six months if nothing happens.

Trying for a baby is no joke. It is a full-time job.

It is tough on a marriage. It is not sexy. Everything is on a schedule. Our lives were on hold. God forbid someone would have a boozy night out, a cheeky cigarette or a laptop on your lap.

What? You can’t fly on the 15th, I’m ovulating!

Playing the blame game is hard. Even the word miscarriage signifies blame; as if one carried the baby incorrectly. I felt like it was my fault, it must be something I was doing wrong. I should not have gone out, I should be thinner, I should be fitter, I shouldn’t have had that coffee.

After another six months, we returned to the clinic. They did some more tests. They said nothing was wrong, but they understood our “eagerness”, put us in the “unexplained infertility” box and finally referred us for treatment.

We began with two rounds of intrauterine insemination (where you place specially prepared sperm directly in the uterus). Both rounds were unsuccessful. We then went on to do an egg retrieval and our first IVF cycle.

It was successful.

We were so happy, but I found pregnancy after loss and infertility complicated. I was delighted and could not believe my luck, but, at the same time, I was incredibly anxious. Every time I went to the bathroom I would check if I was bleeding. People tell you to relax, and that stress is not good for the baby, but I could not help but worry.

In April 2020, I gave birth to our little girl, Chloë, who we adore.

We hoped for a sibling for Chloë but often felt greedy for wanting another child. After what we had been through to have her, we were keen to get going the second time around. I think, deep down, I thought I would get pregnant easily this time, that we might even have Irish twins. When that did not work out as planned, we had six embryos left in storage, so I was sure one of them would be successful.

We went back into the clinic for another embryo transfer. I got pregnant, but we lost the baby. I was bleeding and went into hospital to get a scan. I was told everything looked okay and that there was a heartbeat. We were so relieved. Everyone told me not to worry. That night, I had another bleed. It was during the Covid-19 restrictions, so I went to the emergency room alone. I was left there bleeding for hours before I was discharged. There was nothing they could do.

We went on to have another five embryo transfers. All of which failed.

The clinic did not change my medication or carry out any additional tests. They kept transferring embryo after embryo hoping for a different result.

When our last embryo failed, the clinic told us that there was nothing more they could do for us. They did not refer us to another clinic or offer alternative options. The waiting lists for another clinic in Dublin were at least six months and we were terrified they would not be able to help us either.

We decided we would go to the UK, which we were very privileged to even consider. I had a good friend who went to a clinic in London specialising in complex cases with a history of failed IVF. I sent them my file and we had our first call within a week of contacting them, which was reassuring. After the initial call, they referred me to an embryologist. He said it was unusual that six embryo transfers would fail and suggested we go for genetic and immune testing. Neither of which had been recommended to us in Dublin.

We were both working and had Chloë to consider, so we knew travelling back and forth to London would not be easy. We tried to do as much of the testing as possible in Dublin. They were simple, albeit expensive, blood tests but we found it difficult to find somewhere that would carry out the tests we needed.

The genetic testing involved analysis of our chromosomal structure. My results revealed a female karyotype of 45 chromosomes, including a balanced Robertsonian translocation between chromosomes 13 and 14. This type of translocation was consistent with my infertility. We were referred to genetic counselling to understand the impact of the diagnosis. At the same time, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and various other issues with my immune system (eg, killer cells).

Once we had a diagnosis, while difficult to understand, we were relieved. It was not unexplained infertility after all, there were several reasons why we were not getting pregnant, and it was not my “fault” or anything I was doing “wrong”.

The clinic analysed our results and advised that to achieve a viable pregnancy we would need to:

  • Do another egg retrieval;
  • Send our embryos for testing (PGT-A);
  • Start on medication (eg, clexane, medformin, aspirin, progesterone, steroids, intralipids).

We were keen to get going, so I packed up and moved into an apartment near the clinic. I am fortunate to work for Vodafone, which facilitated working remotely and when the treatment became more intense. I availed of their fertility policy and took some time off.

London was tough.

We decided it was better to keep Chloë (who was 2½ at the time) in her routine, which meant I spent most of the time in London alone. Kevin did his best to bring her over at weekends. When I missed her and felt guilty for not being there for her, I would remind myself that I was doing this for her, so she would have a sibling, and that helped. On harder days, I would give myself a good talking to. I was lucky to be there, I was not sick, my family were well and I was getting the help I needed. I also went to see a wonderful nun, Sr Carmel in Poor Clare Monastery, who helped me along the way.

The clinic, monitoring and medication were intense. There was no hand-holding and you had to advocate for yourself. It was pretty brutal and certainly not for everyone. I trusted the process and tried my best to get on with it.

Towards the end, a typical day involved waking at 5am for my first injection (we called it the horse injection as the needle was huge), into the clinic at 6.45am for bloods, with two additional blood tests to follow that day, hooked up to an IV, suppositories, injections, tablets, scans and up in stirrups for internal exams.

After nine months back and forth to London, with six weeks being the longest stint on my own, we got a phone call to say I was pregnant. We were ecstatic.

We gave birth to our son, Kevin jnr, in August 2023.

It was a difficult time but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. We are so grateful for Chloë and Kevin jnr. We were lucky to get the medical care we needed in Dublin and London, to have jobs that supported us and most of all family who were there for us at every step.