‘The most magical thing is that it took input from the both of us in the end’: One same-sex couple’s journey to becoming parents

This Cork couple may have faced a longer journey than expected to welcome their twin girls, with failed attempts and Covid delays, but finally have the family they dreamed of.

same sex couple and their babiesGeraldine Rea and Niamh O’Sullivan have been together for ten years, having met playing rugby together, and they say that children were always on the cards for them. Geraldine, an Irish teacher, and Niamh, a special needs assistant, knew they would always need assistance to conceive together, but their journey ended up being different to what either of them could have predicted.

“We were very naive, Geraldine says. “We just assumed that because we were both women who didn’t have fertility issues, that it would be very straightforward.” The initial plan was for her to carry their child, and so with the help of Waterstone Clinic they tried Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and then a round of IVF, but each was unsuccessful.

Niamh then went through three cycles of IVF, one of which was unsuccessful and the others sadly ended in miscarriage.

After this, they decided that two of the remaining embryos from Niamh’s IVF cycle would be implanted in Geraldine, a treatment called Shared Motherhood or Reciprocal IVF. It was this cycle that produced their twin girls, Réidín and Aoibhín earlier this year.

A joyful outcome, but Geraldine says the process did take a toll on them. “It’s a rollercoaster and, being a same-sex couple, we didn’t anticipate it being that difficult.” The silver lining to the whole process, however, was that they both had a part to play in their successful cycle.

“The most magical thing about it is that it did take input from the both of us in the end. That’s a really nice thing to come out of it,” Geraldine says.

Getting there had the unexpected additional complication of Covid restrictions, which delayed the cycle where the embryos would be implanted in Geraldine.

“Two days before transfer, the Covid guidelines were put in place, so that was devastating,” she explains, “We had lost a pregnancy, so we had decided to take two months off, something we hadn’t done before. We had always just kept going back for more, trying, trying, trying. So we had taken that break, we were mentally ready, and then Covid happened.”

However, the clinic was able to ensure that the couple was ready to go the minute they were allowed to reopen, prescribing Geraldine’s medicine so she would be ready for the procedure as soon as it was permitted.

Geraldine believes this timing is the reason that their daughters were the first children in Ireland to benefit from the Children and Family Relationships Act (2015) being enacted in May 2020. This meant that she and Niamh were the first same-sex couple to both be registered as parents on their babies’ birth certificates.

This registration was a historic moment that was celebrated as a huge step for the LGBTQ community, although Geraldine laughs that the whole thing was a little over their heads at the time.

“When we got the news, we had two seven week old babies who had colic, and one had reflux, and we were just trying to stay afloat!”

They were incredibly thankful that they didn’t have to go through a court process to both be recognised as their children’s parents, which same-sex parents had to do before this legislation was enacted.

“Some of our friends had children only maybe a year before us, and they had a terrible ordeal to go through.” Geraldine also points out that before this legislation, the second parent had no legal guardianship over their child while this lengthy court process to be recognised as their parent was ongoing.

She also adds that she hopes the law can be changed for male same-sex couples, who are not covered under the new legislation.

And of Waterstone Clinic, who were there throughout their journey, Geraldine could not speak more highly. “Honestly, I tell everybody they were so amazing. They couldn’t have supported us more. Every time we were coming back, time and time again they were so kind to us, which meant a lot.”

She also explains that as they were the first to go through the registration process under the new legislation for the girls’ birth certificates, they were unsure about all the paperwork, but the clinic guided them through it. “They went above and beyond, I can’t praise them enough.”

The couple’s advice to others who are considering starting their family in the same way, is to surround yourself with good support.

“Fertility treatment needs to be talked about more, instead of it being hush-hush. It should be openly discussed so people can have support. We had fantastic friends around us who, when we’d gotten bad news, they’d just text and say something like, ‘I left a little parcel outside the front door’. Little things like that, a bar of chocolate, those are the things that you need.”


Part of the IMAGE Talks Fertility series, published  11 Nov 2021 on IMAGE.ie