Aisling Grogan, a Derry-born doctor, who has spent most of her 30s trying to conceive a baby through IVF, has shared the story of the birth of her twins through a surrogate.
Aisling and her husband, Rick, had the indescribable joy of hugging their twin boys in December 2017.
The former Thornhill College student said she hopes that sharing her journey can help to highlight that surrogacy is an option for couples suffering from infertility and show them paths that can bring them what they wish for.
Aisling studied Medicine at Queen’s University and while enjoying the normal student life aged 20, an ovarian cyst caused her womb to twist.
The cyst was so big, that it covered the size of the womb and everything was twisted, so she had to have the left ovary and tube removed.
“At the time they told me they couldn’t see a right tube, so it may be that I would need IVF in future. I thought it was really interesting because I was studying Medicine and it was so far away,” she added.
After the surgery, Aisling had her ovaries scanned every year and during her routine scan, she kept asking doctors how long she should try to conceive naturally.
Specialists started investigations and found that Aisling didn’t have a right Fallopian Tube and her womb was ‘a funny shape.’
“They told us we would need to get started and we started the IVF process”.
By the time she got married she had already done two rounds of IVF and this was just the start of it.
Because of the shape of her womb she could only have one embryo put back each time so the chances were decreased.
As the time was passing by, the couple had been conducting investigations to find why Aisling wasn’t getting pregnant.
She became pregnant from IVF four times, but each time she miscarried at around six or seven weeks.
Further investigations, tests, biopsies and other treatments were carried out, but ‘none of them worked.’
“We had 12 rounds of IVF in total. In the meantime, we got married, I qualified as a GP and started work”. She also started to work with a consultant who prepared herself and Rick for “another option” each step of the way through IVF.
“I think that’s how you cope with IVF or infertility – it’s having another plan.
By the time Aisling was coming to the end of the IVF journey and having the last embryo implanted, husband Rick attended a local surrogacy conference.
“I had the miscarriage in October, 2016 and when I was in surgery Dr. Conway told Rick she thought we needed to start looking at surrogacy. Rick told her we had already started looking and that he had attended the local conference.
They met their surrogate almost two months later, signing the surrogacy contract on December 6, 2016, and their twins were born on December 6, 2017.
At the beginning of the pregnancy, the information was scarce but around the six-weeks mark, Aisling received an email showing the scan report.
“I read it and it said number one, and number one again, so I thought I think that’s twins.
“But it just said number one again. I read the scan and realised it was twins because of the different measurements.
“Multiple embryos were implanted and the two stuck. I always knew there was a possibility of twins. They ask you if you want twins, so I said I’d love to,” she added.
Aisling met her surrogate via Skype every month and they built up a relationship.
“It was a bit awkward to start with, but every month the relationship got better.
“She’s got two girls herself and this was her second time doing surrogacy. She was 39, she was lovely and gave me lots of information.
“She told me things like the boy is lying on this side and the girl is on that side, she starts kicking at 8.00 pm and kicks all night and wakes him up, so I will always have that information about the pregnancy,” she said.
During one Skype call,the surrogate told Aisling she thought the babies would be born mid-December, so she booked time off from December 8 just to be on the safe side.
“Work was absolutely fine, but I’m not entitled to maternity leave and I’m not entitled to maternity benefits. In the UK you can get adoptive leave but you get nothing in Ireland.
“She said she had news for us and said the section was next week.
That day, the couple could not wait for the moment. After a long delay at the hospital, the twins were eventually brought to them.
Aisling said little Art and Cadhla were “amazing” when they came out of hospital, as they were in routine for around two weeks after.
“My family in Derry placed a big banner out on the street for us when we got up, they had a big celebration for us!
Aisling added that having two new borns isn’t that daunting as she “doesn’t know any different”
“I’m used to having two. This is just normal.”
Aisling said finding women who were going through the same journey was a “saving grace.”
In the Irish based Whatsapp group five women were expecting through surrogacy from October to January.
“Everyone was doing it for different reasons. Some always knew it was the only option they had.
“It was brilliant, and we kept each other right.”
Aisling added that it also helped with other issues such as paperwork, as there is no solid information available.
Overall, Aisling said she would recommend surrogacy.
“Definitely do it, but be prepared, and try to speak to other people who have been through it,” said Aisling.