Olivia Bradley’s life has been beset by heartache in recent years, but this summer she has turned them into a triumph.
Olivia, a Donegal woman from the Crossroads, has just completed a jog from Dublin to Donegal. She made this 16-day journey to mark one of the toughest roads she has been travelling for years – the journey to becoming a mother.
The 39-year-old has had three miscarriages and two unsuccessful IVF treatments in her lifetime. To cope with the trauma of this and other personal tragedies, she decided this year to take a new step – a walk/jog in aid of The Miscarriage Association of Ireland and The Alzheimers Society of Ireland.
Returning home to the Cross last Sunday was a day of celebration for Olivia and her friends and family. Speaking to Donegal Woman, Olivia is pleased to say she has raised almost €9,000 for both charities so far. But her journey is not over yet.
Olivia’s walk/jog gave her a renewed hope when it seemed the world was against her.
She and her husband Stephen have been trying for a baby ever since they got married in 2007.
They had begun their second attempt at IVF last year during a stressful time as Olivia has been made redundant, but they decided to keep going.
On the 28th of July, Olivia’s little sister suddenly died in a road traffic accident. On the 29th of July, Olivia discovered she was pregnant.
“It was very bittersweet because I was trying to get over her wake and funeral. It was really hard. She had died two days before her 21st birthday. On her birthday we were buying cards and putting them into the coffin with her.”
“Unfortunately in the beginning of September I had another miscarriage and I lost the baby. I had a really hard time between September and Christmas. I was so lost. Christmas was horrific for me.”
When the New Year came around, Olivia decided she needed to get out of her house and do something. That was the moment she decided to do the walk/jog.
“Everyone thought I was mad and it was something in my head that would go away again!” she laughs.
Olivia was already a runner, so she was well able to focus her efforts on training for the longest run of all. She had two strong causes to raise funds and awareness for – The Miscarriage Association of Ireland and the Donegal branch of The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, which was giving her family support with their mother Sally.
“On the other side of the coin, my mother was going deeper and deeper into Alzheimer’s disease.”
Olivia set off from the Rotunda IVF Clinic in Dublin on the 27th of May and ran up to two hours a day to cover between 14 and 16 kilometres. Her husband Stephen followed in their motorhome so she’d have a place to rest each day and take time to thank her sponsors.
Olivia stayed determined as she faced all the elements of Irish summers. “One day it was teeming and I would be soaking and it was absolutely horrible, then the next day the sun would be beaming from the sky. It was unbelievable.”
“Thank God I jogged the whole thing. One of two friends joined me the odd day but I was mostly by myself.
“That run saved me. I didn’t know what I was going to go with myself after Christmas I was in such a horrible place.”
Olivia had a lot of support during her last 5k on Sunday June 11th into Killygordon. Friends ran alongside her, a party greeted her at the Cross and there was a special ceremony.
Olivia worked with the Miscarriage Association to bring a memorial stone to St Patrick’s Church Crossroads. The inscribed stone beneath a beautiful tree in the graveyard remembers babies lost before, during and after birth.
“Women don’t always get to bring their babies home, they don’t always get somewhere to bury them. I wanted somewhere for people to go to remember babies they never got to lay to rest.”
Olivia remembers the ‘gorgeous ceremony’ last Sunday when Father Lynch blessed the stone and singers performed in the garden.
She is now delighted she made the effort to get the memorial in place. Ever since she started her journey and fundraising she has had many local women reaching out to her to share their experiences of miscarriage. Olivia has also set up a Facebook page RJounrey To BMamas, where she gets many private messages.
“When I went to do this I found that miscarriage was a low key thing, everyone wanted to hide it and not want to come out and talk about it.
“My journey started when I was younger. I was 20 when I had my first miscarriage. I was heartbroken but I didn’t panic, I thought I had plenty of time and I would be okay.”
In recent years Olivia and Stephen have gone through numerous tests to find out what was preventing them becoming parents. They have been told by medics it is an unexplained infertility.
They looked into IVF, and each time they had made plans or booked in for treatments they have endured personal hardships. Stephen lost both parents in 2014 and 2015 and became seriously ill between that time also.
“It was one thing after the other that was stopping us,” Olivia said. The second treatment had a horrific end for her, but she now feels able to support other women who are going through the same thing.
“It is really hard to get information on IVF in Donegal. You have to go to Dublin or Galway and that scares people too if they have to travel.
“The amount of messages I get is unbelieveable from girls wanting to talk about their miscarriages, ask about IVF and just tell their stories.
“I have had women come to me and say they’ve never spoken to anybody about it. They hadn’t even told their family members.
“It’s such a horrible thing, why would you go through it yourself? This is why I want to make the conversation more open.”
Through all her experiences, Olivia still remains hopeful that she will become a mother. “I’m hoping to go to Spain for IVF come the end of the year. I want to be completely settled and have no worries.”
She is also staying committed to her fundraiser to gather more support for the charities who are helping her and her mother. Now that her journey is completed, she is full of thanks to the many groups of people who have sponsored and supported her.
If you would like to donate to Olivia’s fundraiser, click here: Go Fund Me – Walk/Jog From Dublin to Donegal
Visit RJounrey To BMamas