“I didn’t want to have any regrets in 10 years time about not having children because I hadn’t met someone. It’s everything I‘ve ever dreamed of... “
Rachel McGuinness (35), who embarked on a solo fertility journey welcomed her twin daughters Rosie and Rhea into the world three weeks ago after using an anonymous sperm donor from a Greek clinic.
The determined childcare worker who lives in her family home in Kilbarrack, Dublin, refused to give up on her dream of having a family just because she hadn’t met ‘the one’.
The doting mum’s bonny babies are even more miraculous due to Rachel’s own fertility struggles.
Despite being diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that is associated with an increased risk of having difficulty becoming pregnant, and with just one functioning ovary, the Dubliner fell pregnant earlier this year.
Cradling her precious newborns, Rachel first opened up about her arduous journey towards motherhood in the Sunday World last July, where she revealed she was encouraged to “go and have a one-night stand” to conceive a baby.
Now Rachel is encouraging women to look beyond their relationship status if they are yearning to have a baby.
“You shouldn’t have to wait around for one ingredient, I didn’t want to have any regrets in ten years about not having any children just because I hadn’t met someone. I have always wanted to be a mam, for as far back as I can remember it has been a dream of mine and now I am.
“My sister asked me, ‘is it everything you have ever dreamed of?’ And to be honest it is. I still can’t believe they are mine – these two tiny, perfect little humans are mine.
“You can’t even explain the love you have for them. You think you were in love before but then you have these two babies in front of you and you would do absolutely anything for them.
“I am just staring at them every second of the day, every time I look at them my heart just melts.
“I can’t believe it is finally my turn having waited so long seeing friends and family having babies – now my babies are here.”
Bravely documenting her fertility journey on her Instagram account @donor_andme to stamp out residual stigma around solo parenting, Rachel who travelled to Greece for IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) treatment revealed: “I started with an Irish clinic but it was constant delays and just waiting on phone-calls and a solid plan, I was so frustrated and I just couldn’t wait any longer.
“I decided to book a ticket to Greece in October of last year for a consultation and it was the best thing I ever did.
“One of my tubes was blocked and I only had one working ovary which I had no idea of. I had to get a procedure to remove the blockage.”
Despite the complications, Rachel travelled back to Greece in January and in March she received the news that she was pregnant with twins.
“They only retrieved two eggs, which I was gutted about – all I thought was what if they don’t make it?
“When they were fertilised with the sperm, they were two Grade A eggs. I have always wanted twins and they told me there was a chance but I was ready to have my babies.
“The worst thing was waiting if the embryos had made it. When I found out it had worked and I was having twins I just couldn’t believe it.”
Speaking of the astronomical costs that face women and couples seeking fertility treatment, the inspirational mum is calling on the Government to do more.
“The donor in Greece is free and here it costs €3,000. A round of IVF cost me €3k and my scans were free too – in Ireland I paid €1,600 on scans alone.
“The day I left the clinic my card wouldn’t work and they just said, ‘don’t worry, just do a bank transfer when you get home.’
“If that was Ireland they would have told me to go back in and taken the embryos back.”
As it stands, Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not offer assistance from the State when it comes to IVF services, a single cycle of IVF can cost between €7,000 and €10,000.
Supports for access to IVF treatment will be made available to women across Ireland for the first time as part of Budget 2023.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly secured a multi-million euro funding for the phased introduction of publicly funded IVF which will be rolled out in September of next year, but Rachel says it’s not enough for people caught in the grips of the cost-of-living crisis.
“The Budget has said it will cover some people for fertility treatments but there are so many hidden extras. A lot of countries do offer free IVF, this country is so backwards. A lot of people don’t even have the option of IVF because of money worries.
“I don’t know how much longer I would have been able to go if the first round hadn’t of worked.
“I would have loved to have my own house and it just isn’t even an option when you are single. You shouldn’t have to weigh up getting a mortgage or having a baby.
“I was worrying about room and my mam just said, ‘Rachel, I probably slept in a drawer when I was younger, don’t even worry about that.
“But that was such a stress for me: where will we live and what will we do. I am so lucky to be able to be supported and live with my mam.”
Despite more women conceiving as single parents, Rachel admits that there is still judgment on those who break societal norms.
“Someone said to me, ‘Because the donor is anonymous, what if they resent you or are upset that they can’t trace their father?’
“It was asked in a very genuine way but I have so much support and such a huge family that adores them that they won’t be missing out on anything.”
The beaming mum has just one piece of advice for people looking to embark on their journey towards parenthood.
“Just do it, the worst thing in this world is to have regrets. I remember someone asking me before what is your worst fear? And it was not having kids or not being able to. I would have died, it would have destroyed me. I was always that person with the baby on my hip.”
Looking forward to the future as a family of three Rachel says: “I cannot wait for Christmas Eve and to put them in matching babygros.
“Last Christmas Eve, I was sitting on the sofa and I put a message out on Instagram, ‘I hope that this time next year I have a baby.’ I have to pinch myself because my dream has finally come true.”