How years of fertility struggles added up to two beautiful boys for one same-sex couple
"Don't give up."
Lucille Furlong doesn't hesitate when I ask her what advice she'd have for couples about to embark on fertility treatments.
She should know - she and wife Ellie Grange endured years of highs and lows before they had their two sons Caodhan (seven) and Senan (four).
Motherhood had been a lifelong dream for Lucille - though she wasn't even sure that it was an option when she first came out more than two decades ago.
"I didn’t want to cut out [the possibility of] having children," she tells us of her inner turmoil over admitting to being gay.
"I really struggled but in the end I couldn’t deny who I was.
"Children were always on my radar. Once I came out I thought I have to put that to bed."
At that time, fertility treatments weren't available to gay people and so she decided to get on with life.
She and Ellie met through a social group over ten years ago and by this time, Lucille was determined that she would have children whether it was as part of a couple or alone.
Ellie was open to motherhood too and so it became a priority for the pair as they fell in love.
A year into their relationship, Ellie asked why they were waiting as they both knew they were in it together for the long haul.
The next week they picked up the phone to contact fertility clinics; the first step in their journey.
It was decided that would Lucille undergo IUI treatment, in which the woman is inseminated with donor sperm.
The couple chose an anonymous donor from a sperm bank in Denmark, giving preferences for characteristics like height, weight and educational level.
Their first attempt was unsuccessful but the following month they went again and conceived their son Caodhan.
They were elated. Fortunately Lucille had an easy pregnancy and a healthy birth, "blissfully unaware of what could go wrong."
Almost immediately after their bundle of joy arrived, they decided to try IUI again.
They started the process again just as Caodhan turned one. Unfortunately, having baby number two would be nowhere as easy as baby number one.
Lucille had IUI six times, finally conceiving on the seventh attempt.
It was twins but the pregnancy turned out to be ectopic.
Unbeknownst to her, Lucille had a baby growing in each fallopian tube, putting her life at risk.
"I didn’t realise how close I was to not being here.
"My fallopian tube burst, I lost my right fallopian tube, and they reckon I was bleeding internally for about six days."
She and Ellie lost both of the babies and were heartbroken.
They were advised to try IVF instead, an option they knew they'd struggle to afford.
Ellie convinced Lucille to give it a go and the women poured everything they had into making it work.
Their first round was cancelled due to complications. The couple, using money gifted from their families, went again and fortunately were able to conceive.
Again, it wasn't to be and Lucille miscarried at 12 weeks. They were devastated.
They decided to go for a third round of IVF, an attempt that would be their very last.
Miraculously, their son Senan was conceived but Lucille couldn't enjoy this pregnancy like she had with Caodhan's.
"It was filled with anxiety, fear and worry. I was obsessed with testing my pregnancy symptoms. If I didn’t feel him I used to panic."
Happily, Senan came along and is now a gorgeous, happy four-year-old.
He was worth the wait, Lucille says, though the time between having her two boys when she and Ellie were trying to grow their family was agony.
"I have an awful lot of guilt about what I put Caodhan through because through that time my focus was on trying to get pregnant and I couldn’t really appreciate what I had.
"It was so hard. Emotionally it was very difficult. Physically for me it was horrendous. Then Ellie was going through it too."
Each insemination and round of IVF, each false start, brought hope and despair - but the couple remained steadfast.
"You’ve all these hopes and dreams and everything and two weeks later you take your blood test or your pregnancy test and it’s negative and you hit rock bottom.
"I used to say, I’m going to cry today but tomorrow is a new day. I haven’t lost anything, the only thing I’ve lost is a dream."
Life is a lot happier these days for the family of four.
Caodhan is in first class and Senan is due to start school this September.
There was another milestone for Lucille and Ellie three years ago when they got married.
Their sons acted as grooms' boys while their cake featured a butterfly for each baby they had lost.
Looking back over the years that have gotten them to this point, Lucille says that she'd advise her and Ellie's younger selves not to give up and to listen to their doctors.
Couples embarking on fertility treatments, she said, should also set limits of what they will put themselves through to have a family.
"It puts a physical toll on you, it puts an emotional toll on you and it puts a financial toll on you and you have to be able to say, enough is enough.
"The other thing is not to let it affect your relationship.
"We’re lucky, we’re very close and Ellie never blamed me for what my body couldn’t do. Be honest with each other and depend on each other because you’re both going through it."
Fertility in the City
Rotunda IVF's Fertility in the City information evening will be in the Dean Hotel on Harcourt Street on Thursday 2 May from 6.30pm. The event will see Ireland's top fertility specialists inform women on fertility, including the options for same sex couples and single women.
The details on donor sperm, assessing fertility, causes of infertility, and all the supports, advice and state-of-the-art treatments will be explained by the Rotunda IVF fertility experts.
Tickets are available for the evening free-of-charge, but must be booked in advance on www.rotundaivf.ie.