Empty Room

Deborah Hughes Mulcahy

St. Kevin's College

Approximately one in six couples in Ireland suffer with infertility problems. It is an issue that touches all either directly or indirectly, and yet, it is a topic many have never discussed. This project aims to raise awareness and highlight the truth of the day-to-day struggles and shame surrounding infertility.
I was married at 23 years old and just assumed that a family would come quickly and naturally. After two years of trying, but not really trying, we started to take things more seriously. I read all the books, started taking all the vitamins, gave up smoking, used ovulation prediction kits—I could own shares in these—and recorded my temperature daily. Nothing happened. It slowly dawned that we needed a bit more help.
I remember our first visit with our fertility specialist, whom promised that age was on our side and that she could get us pregnant. I truly believed this would be our time, but another year passed without pregnancy. After all the tests had been completed, we found that I wasn’t ovulating on my own. After taking pills for four months to aid the process, I finally got those magic words: “You’re pregnant.” But I miscarried our first baby at six weeks.
The pain was unbearable. It was then that I turned to photography as a way of clawing back some control. Infertility had changed me, my body, and my confidence. It made me feel so alone and isolated. After the miscarriage, we went explored other fertility treatments and sadly, I lost another baby. My husband and I finally decided that we needed to consider in vitro fertilization. I found a clinic in Athens, Greece, that brought my attention to some issues we hadn’t known about. They made an intense treatment plan to prepare me for IVF. I had lost hope, but felt I needed the closure to move on from our dream, so we pressed ahead with the treatment.
We flew to back to Athens five days into my and decided on a date to collect eggs and sperm. We spent our time trying not to think about why we were there. We tried to do touristy things and relax. After the eggs had been collected and fertilized we waited for the call to see how many embryos had survived. Four days later, we were told five healthy embryos survived, two of which where implanted in my womb and three that had been frozen for future cycles, if needed. We flew home the next day and tried to not think about the treatment until I was to have the blood test that would tell us if the cycle was a success. Those days I was filled with so many emotions: hope, fear, and a bitterness I hadn’t felt before. Why us? Why should it be so hard? I secretly used an early pregnancy test five days before my official test date. I had decided I wanted to be prepared for the negative, and I was shocked to see a plus sign. My first reaction was pure joy, but it very quickly turned to fear, fear of what could very quickly be taken away again.
Over the next few days I tested myself every morning. I crept into the bathroom and watched as the two lines developed and grew darker by the day, finding it very hard to believe and fearing I would lose it all. I told no one—not even my husband. On the official test day I took the test again, and my husband and I watched the two lines appear. Having been through this before, there was no celebration, just a hug and a little smile. It wasn’t until our first ultrasound when we saw two beautiful heartbeats that I realized I had been holding my breath. We let down our defenses. We cried tears of joy.