A woman has had her first child aged 48 after 14 years of trying to conceive, five rounds of failed IVF, one ectopic pregnancy and even going through the menopause.
Fiona McCluskey, now 49, and her husband Darren, began trying for a baby on their honeymoon in Jamaica in 2004 but as the weeks, months and years passed – it became apparent that something wasn’t quite right.
The couple, then in their mid 30s, were advised by medics – after various blood tests and in-depth hormone tests – to try to conceive with the help of IVF – which they spent around £50k on.
After five unsuccessful rounds of IVF – one of which resulted as an ectopic pregnancy – Fiona’s chances of becoming a mum were slipping away as she began to experience menopause symptoms aged 45.
However, she opted to try a specialist treatment in Barcelona, which involved a new protocol to start her periods again. And as result the couple’s sixth and final round of IVF was a success – they welcomed their little girl Ella-Jane in May 2019.
Fiona from Edinburgh, Scotland, said: ‘We never thought this would happen to us; sometimes I wish I had started trying for a baby sooner but I am grateful that I finally have my little miracle.
‘Darren and I have been on an emotional rollercoaster ever since 2004, it has been so hard especially when friends, family and colleagues had babies and I didn’t but I remained positive and hopeful and never gave up.’
After two years of trying naturally, the couple underwent tests and it was found that Fiona had a low ovarian reserve. They got the first round of IVF for free and then paid for another on the NHS, but neither were successful.
‘It was devastating but we were able to pick ourselves back up and continue trying,’ says Fiona.
‘We used our life savings and work bonuses to fund the treatment but it was all worth it for our bundle of joy.’
Over more than a decade of trying for a child, the couple have experienced many ups and downs. Fiona even went through the emotional turmoil of a ‘phantom pregnancy’ where her body had tricked itself into thinking she was pregnant.
Fiona says the hardest part was juggling a demanding job in advertising with appointments – she feared talking to her colleagues because she says there is still such a stigma around infertility.
‘In hindsight, I used work as a coping mechanism, as I never took time off to dwell on anything I was going through,’ explains Fiona.
‘I was a bit of a workaholic who was up and down the country for meetings and meeting strict deadlines. I didn’t let my personal life affect my work and kept everything what was happening bottled up by not telling anyone and occasionally making up excuses when I needed time off for appointments.
‘I regret not taking time off when going through so much stress and heartbreak, but I didn’t want other people to know.’
The couple were forced to put their dreams of becoming a family on hold in 2011 after both were made redundant, but after meeting a Spanish doctor at a fertility event in Glasgow they decided to give the innovative treatment a try.
‘Once we both settled into new jobs, we began saving again and flew to Spain for another round of IVF and it was successful,’ recalls Fiona.
‘We couldn’t believe it – our dreams had come true but at eight weeks, I had severe cramps during my train journey home from had a work appointment in Birmingham.
‘When I got back to Scotland, I was bleeding and we went straight to the hospital to be told it was an ectopic pregnancy. I was absolutely totally heartbroken but I found some comfort knowing I could carry a baby.’
In 2015, Fiona endured more heartbreak as another round failed and then she began to experience hot flushes and her GP gave her a menopause diagnosis the following year.
She thought there was no hope, but the clinic in Barcelona introduced her to a new protocol and the pill to start her periods again.
In 2018, two embryos were transferred and a pregnancy test revealed that Fiona was pregnant aged 47.
‘I was absolutely over the moon but still couldn’t quite believe it – I was smiling from ear to ear and so was Darren,’ she says.
‘But I couldn’t help but feel frightened as I thought something bad might happen and worried a lot during my pregnancy but tried to keep busy and put it out of my mind but it was terrifying at times, thinking the worst but stayed calm and used hypnosis soundtracks at night to switch off.
‘My parents were ecstatic as they finally got a grandchild in their late 70s. It can be hard at times as I am not as young as I used to be but I am fit and regularly work out and keep myself healthy.
‘Ella-Jane is a gem, our rainbow baby and she was totally worth the wait – I can’t even remember my life before her – it is like she has always been here.’
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