'I now have all I've ever wanted'
EVERY baby is a blessing, but baby Aya Seymour is a miracle. Her birth at the end of March ended 14 years of pain and heartache for her mother, Sharon, who says all she ever really wanted in life was to become a mother.
Over the course of the last 14 years, Sharon endured 14 miscarriages, was told by three different consultants that she would never be a mother and went through two gruelling cycles of IVF - which she had to fight tooth and nail for.
Now, though, as she cuddles ten week old Aya in her arms, she says her daughter was "worth it all" and that, if she had to, she would do it all again "in a heartbeat".
Sharon had suffered seven miscarriages before doctors told her that something was wrong and referred her to the recurrent miscarriage clinic at St. Mary's in London.
She says: "Before then we were told it was one of those things. I was young. I could try again. But when I lost the seventh baby I was seen by Dr David Hunter who was a junior doctor at the time.
"I told him I didn't want to see him, that I had explained my story over and over already, but he asked me to give him five minutes to read my notes and, when he did, he came back and told us we were being referred. I have never been so glad that I gave him those five minutes!"
Sharon and her husband Gary were soon told that Sharon suffered from a rare clotting disorder which meant that, while she could get pregnant, her body was unable to sustain a pregnancy beyond the early months.
Prescribed a cocktail of medication to help control her condition, Sharon left the clinic with a renewed confidence that things were going to change and she was finally going to be able to carry a baby to term.
"Things didn't work out like that, though," she says. "I didn't realise it would be a careful balancing act - trying to get dosages right and monitor things, and we went on to have three more miscarriages."
It was then, after Sharon had lost 10 babies, that fate dealt an even crueller blow. "I stopped ovulating. My body had decided it had done its bit, I'd had ten pregnancies so it simply stopped producing eggs." .
The couple tried several courses of medication hoping to kickstart Sharon's ovaries back into working order but when this failed they knew their only option was IVF - except they were automatically ruled out of NHS funding because Gary already has a child from a previous relationship.
Determined as always, Sharon decided to fight on and contacted the Infertility Network UK and local MP Mark Durkan, both of whom lobbied on their behalf and secured a change in the law which entitled all couples - regardless of whether or not they already had children - to two cycles of IVF on the NHS.
Sadly, for Sharon and Gary, their first attempt was not successful - although Sharon refused to give up hope. "We were being told to give up. We were being advised to look at adoption or fostering but I couldn't let go of the notion that one of these days I would hold own baby in my arms."
After Sharon and Gary's first attempt, the law changed again - allowing couples only one shot at IVF and the couple had to fight once again for one last chance at conceiving the baby they so wanted. "Once again Mark Durkan took on our case and we were granted one last round of IVF. The pressure at that time was unbelievable - we knew we had one chance now to get a baby. It had to work, there was no way we could afford the 6,000 to go private."
As Sharon waited for her period to arrive so that she could start the cycle of drugs required of the IVF, life had a surprise in store for her.
"I bled one day and it stopped so my GP advised me to go the hospital. It was there I found out I was pregnant - beyond all the odds. I couldn't believe it. I was told that I would never ovulate again. We were ecstatic. This felt like our miracle - our chance at being parents together."
The couple was devastated beyond words to find out at the end of March that the pregnancy was ectopic and not able to progress. "That was very hard to take, very hard indeed," Sharon says.
A month later, they started the gruelling IVF process again and Sharon said she should have shares in pregnancy test companies. "I knew five days after the egg transfer that I was pregnant. I think I did a test every day for the first three months and they just kept coming up positive."
At that stage Sharon was put under the care of Dr Colin Prendergast - a specialist in recurrent miscarriages. He told Sharon he knew all about her condition and agreed to monitor her closely.
"He could not have done more for us. He went above and beyond the call of duty. He was there for every niggle. He gave me as much reassurance as I needed and I honestly believe, were it not for Dr Prendergast, we would not be where we are now."
On March 30, Sharon gave birth to baby Aya - whose name means miracle. Born 9 weeks early - as a precaution due to Sharon's clotting condition - she weighed in at just 4lb 2oz.
"I just broke down when I saw her," Gary says. "They held her up to me and said, 'Here's your daughter' and I was gone."
It was three days before Sharon could hold her and she describes the moment as priceless. "I can't believe she is here - and she is mine. I have everything I have ever wanted now."
Sharon and Gary want to thank their family and friends for their support. They also want to thank the members of Tiny Feet, Dr. Paddy and Dr. Connor Bradley, Dr. Hunter, Dr.Watson, Mark Durkan, Hayley, Caroline and Alex and all the team on the Antenatal ward, Dr. Prendergast's secretary and, most of all, Dr. Colin Prendergast.
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Weather for Derry
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 10 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West