Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is an overwhelming experience for any parent-to-be.
But for 37-year-old Elaine, her first pregnancy scan marked a moment she could barely believe was happening — it was indisputable proof of the miracle growing inside her.
At the beginning of 2011, Elaine and her 42-year-old husband, Andrew, were given the devastating news they would never conceive naturally. It came after months of tests to establish why they weren’t getting pregnant and the couple from Co Down were told they faced another agonising year-long wait before they could even begin IVF on the NHS.
It was too much to bear.
“I remember breaking down one night and saying to Andrew that I couldn’t deal with anymore waiting and we should try and go private,” said Elaine.
“We knew it would cost money but the way I saw it, if the car broke down we would find money to get it fixed so why couldn’t we find money for something we wanted so much?”
The couple met while working for a charity and married in 2006.
“We spent the first few years of married life travelling and then after a bit of time passed we started to think about having a baby,” said Andrew.
“You spend so long trying not to have kids and you just think it is going to happen straight away when you do try. We just assumed we would get pregnant.”
But it was not to be and with each month that passed, Elaine — who works in local government — became increasingly worried.
She said: “There were four of us who got married in the same year. It got to the stage where some of them not only had one baby but had two.
“It is hard when people ask about when you are going to have your own baby but it is almost worse when they stop asking.
“It puts a strain on your relationship. When do you admit to each other there could be a problem? It was so emotional when I finally went to the GP for the first time. It brought it all out into the open.”
Andrew, a charity worker, added: “It was tough but at the end of the day you want answers so you can move on. We were strong enough to get through it.”
When they were finally told they could not conceive naturally, doctors offered them the option of IVF.
“We went on the NHS waiting list but I looked up some private clinics on the internet and that’s when I found out about Origin,” said Elaine.
“We had a consultation with them in October or November last year and started the treatment pretty much straight away.
“The actual process wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I had to give myself injections in the tummy every day. The thought of it was worse than actually doing it.
“At the beginning we were supposed to go through the normal IVF treatment but on the day I went to have my eggs implanted the doctors said they were worried I could develop a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
“They said they didn’t want to implant my eggs at that time. I was so disappointed but then they explained about egg freezing.”
Elaine went home and returned six weeks later for the implantation.
“We had to wait two weeks to find out whether it had worked,” said Elaine. “It was a long wait but when the day finally came I didn’t want to do the test. I was so scared the IVF hadn’t worked it was nice to be in a bubble where we didn’t know for definite.
“I snuck out of the bed that morning when Andrew was still asleep. I remember standing just crying. I was so scared to look at the test in case it was negative. When I finally looked at it there was a line. It was quite faint so I did another and there was more of a line. I just couldn’t believe it so when I woke Andrew to tell him the news he thought it was negative.”
Andrew said: “We really should have enjoyed the moment more but we couldn’t believe it and were so scared something might go wrong.”
According to Elaine, she found it so hard to believe that their first attempt at IVF had been a success that she took a pregnancy test every week until her first scan at six weeks.
“I can’t describe what it was like to see and hear its heart beating,” she said. “It made it more real, that something was really happening and confirmed it was a viable pregnancy.
“Even still, it was only after about 20 weeks that we allowed ourselves to think about what we might need. We’ve done some window shopping and talked about names but we don’t want to find out whether it is a boy or a girl.”