ANYONE can give up. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.
“Dealing with fertility is hard at the best of times,” says Alison Collins, from Tower, Blarney, who, after it was revealed that she couldn’t conceive because of polycystic ovaries, underwent three round of IVF.
“I put on a brave face around small kids and my young cousins, I drowned in them and I embraced them. I fed off their joy,” says Alison.
“Christmas can be a difficult time when you are going through IVF treatment. It’s another year without a baby,” adds Alison.
“Your emotions are all over the place, the drugs play havoc with your hormones. Your clothes don’t fit you because of the weight fluctuation.
“Family and friends arrive home from abroad at Christmas time, and keeping the sunny side out is tough going. I would over-eat and drink wine to get through the party season, never fitting into anything nice because my butt and my stomach were too swollen to fit into anything nice.
“Christmas is meant to be magical and a time for miracles. For many, this is not the case.”
Alison and Ron hoped for their own miracle.
“All throughout my journey, I could never see the baby at the end,” says Alison.
“It’s like having tunnel vision and never quite believing in victory. After every round of IUI or IVF, when it didn’t work, my way of coping was by doing another round until, finally, it worked.”
After two and a half years of coping, hoping and praying and wishing, the IVF treatment worked.
“I would love to break down the barriers and the taboo of having fertility treatment and I feel it is important to give those who were in my shoes hope, knowing that they are not alone,” says Alison.
After three rounds of IVF, Alison was overjoyed when her son was conceived.
One in six women who have difficulty in conceiving a child turns to IVF treatment for a solution.
Alison asked the Waterstone Fertility Clinic, Tivoli, to host a Christmas Tree of Hope, with hanging bauble decorations filled with confetti, representing the joy of nearly 500 babies born with the help of the clinic this year.
“The mothers got there after a hard and difficult journey,” says Alison.
“And that journey is often a silent one. Women going through IVF treatment don’t talk about it. Their anguish isn’t obvious, like someone who may be going on a different journey, like cancer.”
Alison has walked in their shoes, hoping against hope that each step she took was getting closer to the miracle of giving new life.
“I’d like to represent women who go through IVF and high-light their stories,” she says, recalling her own story of false hope, dashed hope, and continued hope.
“I could just about cope with IVF,” she says. “But if anything else went wrong in my life my emotions would bubble over and I could find myself having a mini-meltdown with lots of tears. The three main factors that contribute to the stress of IVF are the financial side, the physical side and then there is the emotional side.
“Nobody will truly tell you just how difficult it is unless you got through it yourself. Lots of couples are extremely private about their IVF journey, which I completely respect. I have gotten to know these women through rollercoaster.ie. These women are warriors who have given me endless support. These women hold down full-time jobs while being pumped full of drugs as they put smiles on their faces when their colleagues head off with their farewell balloons on maternity leave. These women are relentless and I will be ever grateful to them.”
Alison had support from other quarters.
“My husband, Ron, is very easy-going which is great. I relied heavily on three of my cousins for support, whom I call ‘my three musketeers’. “Every person who walks through a door of a fertility clinic needs support and let’s not forget our partners.”
Alison wants to embrace everybody who went on a similar journey.
“The Tree of Hope is a showcase representing a vision of hope for women this Christmas,” says Alison. “Showing that you are not alone.”
The happiness and joy symbolised by the Tree of Hope this year, came into Alison’s own life when Casey was welcomed by his mum and his dad on November 30, 2015. He is the best and most precious gift they ever got.
“Casey is the best gift ever given,” says Alison. “I thought I could rule the world!”
Casey’s loved ones feed off the abundant joy he brought into their lives.
“He is loved to bits,” says Alison.
The three-year-old is a constant ray of sunshine in grandad Joe’s world too.
“They idolise each other,” says Alison. “They both love DIY and mucking in together, Casey insists on wearing his hard hat!”
Is that why Santa is bringing Casey a selection of tools and a chain-saw this Christmas? Alison laughs.
“Casey wants nothing more than to get stuck in with his dad and his grandad doing the small jobs outdoors.”
Now it’s a whole new world for the close-knit threesome, plus granddad Joe.
“My auntie Frankie gave me a Christmas decoration for my baby’s first Christmas,” says Alison. “I will never forget the feeling when I opened the little red box. There was light at the end of the tunnel after all.”
The Waterstone Clinic, Tivoli, will host a Tree of Hope this year for all the women who battled with fertility. If you would like to post a Christmas decoration to the clinic, they will display it on their tree to represent your miracle baby, irrespective of where you had your fertility treatment.