Life for Ruth McEwan-Lyon and her husband Steve is less intrepid than when they used to travel and work in countries throughout Asia.
ut their more sedate life in Holywood, Co Down is everything the couple could now wish for — as they are now parents, falling pregnant naturally after going through the heartache of seven failed IVF attempts.
Ruth credits her wondrous discovery of getting pregnant with their only child Sophie, now five, due to her taking some time out of her busy professional life, travel and having a cup of chai tea every day while she holidayed in India.
“I honestly think that it was down to having this beautiful cup of chai tea which was brought to me every morning while I was in India with a few friends, as that was the only thing that was different to how I was living,” recalls the 49-year-old.
“After the trip to India I returned home to Steve in Penang, where we lived in Malaysia for a couple of days, before coming back home to Belfast for Christmas for a few weeks.
“And on the way back to Malaysia, I felt a bit sick in the plane and I wondered what was up. I didn’t feel like having a glass of wine on the plane, and that’s just not like me,” she adds.
Once home, and after taking five separate home pregnancy tests, the couple were overjoyed to learn that they were expecting a baby.
After a normal healthy pregnancy, Ruth delivered her longed-for baby in a water birth at a hospital in Penang, at the age of 44.
Ruth has a lot to thank the East for, as not only did she get pregnant there, she also learnt the craft of silversmithing while she was caring for Sophie as a baby for two years, before they returned to Northern Ireland in 2012. While Steve was working in an exciting job for the Red Cross, Ruth’s silversmithing became an outlet for her.
The east Belfast woman is now the creative force behind NI Silver, a bespoke jewellery business that she and Steve run from home.
She designs and makes beautiful Northern Ireland-inspired jewellery from landmarks — such as the Giant’s Causeway, the Dark Hedges, Titanic Belfast, the Harland & Wolff cranes and the Beacon of Hope — into charms, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cufflinks.
And the couple are also grateful to the hugely successful TV show Game of Thrones which is filmed here — the much-anticipated new series of which began recently. As well as Ruth’s beautiful silver designs inspired by the now globally famous Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, the pair have also found work as extras on the show and other TV productions also shot in the province.
Indeed the film work has enabled Ruth and Steve to have family-friendly hours so they can spend as much time as possible with Sophie.
Their daughter is a happy five-year-old and the focus of her parents’ devotion, who simply cannot imagine life without her.
But Ruth says that she has blocked out some of the pain and disappointment that they both went through in their journey to become parents.
There was never any physical reason for the couple not to conceive — it just never happened, apart from the very first IVF attempt which ended in a heartbreaking miscarriage.
“I sometimes look back and think how we came through it all but we did,” says Ruth. “And now when I hear of fertility companies over here advertising that they will get a couple pregnant in three goes or return their money back, it makes me think just how things have changed so much since when we first started IVF.”
Ruth is a qualified accountant and holds an MBA. She left Belfast to go to university in England and remained there working in a top civil servant role.
She met Englishman Steve (48) while they were both in their late 20s through volunteering with local Air Cadets. They married after a couple of years and while they had their hearts set on having a family, they also planned to emigrate to Australia.
“After four or five years of trying for a baby, we were surprised that it didn’t happen, as we were both fit and healthy,” says Ruth.
“We were living in England and decided to have ourselves checked out to find out why we couldn’t get pregnant.
“As my age was against us, and because we could afford it, we decided to go for IVF privately. We didn’t tell our families or friends, as it was just too private and not really the type of thing that you can be open about as it’s just so personal.”
They were told that the success rate was one in four IVF attempts.
But in their mid-30s and while many of their friends were having children, they were to know crushing disappointment after every treatment.
Ruth says: “Being the type of people we were, we kept going as we thought that the statistics would work out in our favour eventually ... but it didn’t.
“We kept thinking ‘it has to happen this time’.”
They spent tens of thousands of pounds on their attempts to have a child. After their seventh treatment didn’t work, they decided to go ahead with their plans to travel to Asia. The emotional and financial strain was just becoming too much for the couple.
And there, nature eventually took over — perhaps with the help of chai tea?
“Having gone through IVF and with all the ups and down that go with it, I really feel for any couple going through the same thing,” adds Ruth.
“I would be happy to talk to anyone who would like a chat and to have an honest conversation of what happens to get in touch with me.
“It’s actually the hormone injections, which help increase egg production, that can leave you feeling very emotional.
“Afterwards when the attempt has failed, and there’s a flushing of the hormones out of your body, that’s the time when you feel overwhelmed and you can get very stressed with one another.
“I suppose it does make a couple stronger having gone through all that we did, as you get to see the best and the worst of one another.”
Meanwhile, the jewellery business is taking off, allowing the couple both to enjoy flexible working, so that they can be at home for Sophie after school.
Ruth is designing a charm to represent every county in Northern Ireland and has created a new silver throne charm inspired by the Game of Thrones’ famous Throne of Swords.
The family’s connection with the world’s top TV programme doesn’t end there, as both Steve and Ruth have appeared as extras on the show.
“We still get some excitement because as a family we have filmed The Sparticle Mysteries for CBeebies,” says Ruth.
“Meanwhile, Steve and I have both been involved in Line of Duty, Game of Thrones, The Fall as well as advertisements for Toyota and Irish Tourism and the Nike story about Rory McIlroy.
“Steve has also appeared in The Truth Commissioner, Robot Overlords (sci-fi movie), Lost City of Z (a Brad Pitt production).
“So, all in all, we’ve been living our dream since we returned home.
“Hopefully there will be plenty more work where the filming is concerned.
“We have lived in and visited Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo and, obviously Malaysia, over the last few years.
“While we visited Australia we never got to live there after all, despite getting our visas, but that was through choice rather than circumstance.
“Most importantly for us now has been settling into a new life and home back as a family here,” she adds.
“We really enjoy seeing Northern Ireland showing the world what we have to offer.
“As a family, I suppose we are living life as tourists and are enjoying every minute of being here and living life to the full,” she adds.
- To see Ruth’s designs visit www.ni-silver.com