Hello my old friend – Fertility Road Magazine

The waiting room at Hull IVF Clinic is a very strange place.  For some reason they have all the chairs in a square, facing each other, which is strange given most clients don’t want to look at anyone else or be seen by anyone else.  They then have what I always thought was the most bizarre collection of fake Irises in the centre, which I guess could perhaps be strategically placed to disguise clients?  And they then have a couple of coffee tables with magazines, which is where I first came across Fertility Road magazine.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely waiting room, very calming, with lovely personnel attending to you.  There is a water machine, tea and coffee station and lots of information on the walls to read whilst you are waiting.  There is also a board full of photos of babies obviously successfully born with the assistance of the wonderful team there.

And yet, as I used to sit there, head down avoiding eye contact, I couldn’t help but look at the next person through the door, check out the next couple leaving the consultants’ rooms or the next lady calling at reception to collect her drugs.  It was like a flipping car crash that even though you didn’t want to look you just couldn’t help rubber necking!!

And so, Fertility Road magazine became my life saver.  I’d stare at the pages of the latest edition trying to focus on anything but anyone else around me!  It was also jam packed of information targeted at people like us, unlike any other publication around.  It was so refreshing!

As my mission to raise the profile of Secondary Infertility got new impetus this year, I was so delighted when the Editor agreed to publish a short article I wrote about my ambitions to break taboos and encourage people to talk about all kinds of infertility.

If only I could have told that broken girl in the waiting room the journey she would go on and how one day she might end up in that magazine she was holding.

Then again, she would never have believed me!

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That look on his face.

As much as sitting on the loo staring at the dark streak of blood on the paper in my hands gave me a kick in the stomach, that was nothing compared to the pain of having to tell my husband.  It wasn’t bad enough that I should have the earth shattering discovery that I was bleeding and my dream of being a mum for the second time was over for another cycle, I then had to find the courage and strength to impart the tragic news to the person I loved the most, my husband.

Infertility is often all about the woman, for obvious (unfair if you ask me and God IS a man but anyway) reasons.

I could be broken, physically, mentally and emotionally destroyed yet I would have to muster that certain something that would not only enable me to deliver the news, but also be there to comfort and support him when his dream of becoming a father was snatched away, again.

I was talking to another girl recently about ‘that look on his face’.  That little boy lost look that cannot disguise the immense, acute pain coupled with the longing yet confused look as to what to do next.  Should I hug her?  Will she hug me?  Can I change this?  Can I rewind time?  Can it be true?  It is alright to cry?  Do I really have to look at that paper FFS?

There is no disputing that men are often overlooked throughout the treatment and it’s pleasing that mens’ fertility issues are being talked about more and more.  Yet still, no matter how much attention is paid to perhaps Men-related causes of infertility, whatever the cause, there will always be that look between and woman and her partner when she has to deliver the news.  It’s unavoidable, and I guess in some relationships, that look could be on a female partner where the other is trying to get pregnant.

I will never forget that look.  I’ll never forget the fear and fury and having to tell someone that news knowing how devastated they would be.  When I needed support the most I had to find strength to comfort someone else.  Yet it’s the way it was, will be and can only be.

Will it always hurt this much?

I was recently asked by someone who was hurting from a failed attempt ‘Will it always hurt this much?’

My first gut response was to blurt out yes with my next breath, but fortunately I was able to hold onto that thought and think some more about it.

The pain of infertility is a lot like grief I believe.  You grieve for a child you lost of thought/dreamt you had, you grieve for a life you might have had together and you grieve for the ability to create life which seems to be taken away from you.

Grief sucks.  It hurts.  It’s an immense pain.  At the time you feel you will never get over it and it will always hurt that way forever.

Time isn’t a healer but time is brilliant at helping your body, mind and soul adapt to carry that grief.  You learn to live with loss.  You learn to adapt your thoughts, behaviour, habits to cope with the loss of whatever it is you once had but now have to live without.

You learn to live with infertility.  You wake up each morning learning a little more how to deal with everyday life carrying the burden that you are still unable to conceive.

I don’t believe it hurts less.  It might not be as acute as on the day your period starts or the day you miscarry or the day your scan doesn’t show a heartbeat but it will always be there.  You cope better, you get stronger, you get wise to the world around you and adapt to stop it hurting you as it did before.

And so my answer?  The pain of fertility never leaves you, but don’t worry, you get stronger.  This will get easier and being strong will become the norm.

With love to anyone hurting.

New Chapter Release

https://morelovetogivebyhelendavies.com/sample-chapters/chapter-15-staring-at-the-face-of-frightening-statistics/

So those who know me well, probably won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve started writing another book, which is again about Secondary Infertility, but is more of a guide and practical support for those suffering and for those around someone suffering.  It will hopefully be an easy to digest ‘friend’ to anyone wanting to understand more about their situation and on realising it is a ‘condition’, the content will also hopefully make them feel empowered and a little more at peace.

In researching this new book, I have been all over the blogs and websites recently and what has struck me is that whilst my babies are now 2, nothing has changed.  There are new women every day, bravely joining blogs and forums asking the same questions, feeling the same fear and wanting to know more information.  I never really thought the problem had or would go away, but neither had I given it much thought since I had stopped visiting the sites, so this came as somewhat of a surprise.  And it saddened me.

I am currently a ‘text buddy’ to four girls, all going through fertility difficulties, all with different stories and situations, but all share the same pain.  And all have the same thirst for knowledge, hunger for understanding and desperate need of support.  The feeling of helplessness I often feel does quite bother me and I have an appreciation of my close friends and family who clearly would have had the same feelings in supporting me on my journey.

And so, the only thing I can do is to show understanding and so I thought I’d share another chapter from More Love To Give – An IVF Memoir, and enlighten them, and anyone else in a similar boat, that those feelings they have are normal and it’s OK to feel that way.  This chapter describes the first group meeting we attended before any treatment started and gives an insight into how the emotions make your brain run riot in your head and your heart bang twice as loud as I’m sure it should!

My putting the proverbial pen to paper a second time isn’t that I’ve given up on this first book.  Far from it.  I’m bloody determined to get it published but have been a little sidetracked in recent months.  The second book is a ‘buddy’ for the first, a partner, a support to help it get to it’s final destination.  And sometimes, that’s all any of us can be.

I hope you enjoy x

 

 

You are not alone

It’s National Fertility Awareness Week in the US this week and the Secondary Infertility Facebook pages are full of girls wanting to raise the profile of both Infertility and Secondary Infertility.  It was pleasing (in some ways) to se that the national organisation was using the strapline ‘You are not alone’ as their campaign message.  This was the exact same message I wanted to get across when I realised my situation had a name and knew that there must be others who like me had felt so alone, so isolated in my ill-placed feelings of guilt and greed at wanting a second child, that I began writing my book.

Indeed, after a recent Facebook post a friend of a friend wrote that they gave up reading after realising I already had a child as his ‘wife and I can’t have kids so I have little sympathy’.  It was a feeling and response I completely understood but one that precisely sums up the unfortunate predicament of anyone suffering infertility trying for a second child – there is little understanding from those who have children and never struggled and little sympathy from those who are still trying or unable to conceive a first.

I was never really looking for sympathy, perhaps a little empathy, but mostly a feeling that it was OK to say how shit and sad I felt without criticism or snide remarks.  This gentleman did in fact read on and come back to say he eventually did understand and that we all had pain just in different places.

A lovely response from Infertility Network UK today said that contact with patients showed that the pain of secondary infertility has a huge impact on their lives and that whilst statistics are hard to gather they believe approx 5% of the UK population are affected by Secondary Infertility.

The fact is, Infertility is Infertility.  I had the same desire, needs, cravings, longings, pain, effort in trying, relationship crisis, sadness and despair as anyone wanting a first child.  However, because I had my son I had no escape from that misery.  I couldn’t go off for a weekend with adult couple friends, I couldn’t escape baby groups, I couldn’t get away from childrens’ TV programmes, I had an empty nursery to torment me, I put away baby clothes not knowing whether to keep hold of my favourites and I had a little boy grilling me to answer countless questions about why he didn’t have a brother or sister.

I will be the very first in line to say I am lucky.  I was blessed with my son.  But I will look anyone in the whites of the eyes who dare defy the pain that Secondary Infertility causes and question whether anyone should be vocal about those feelings.  For those who understand no explanation is needed.  For those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.

The shame of SI is that whilst a study in the Lancet a few years ago suggests that approx 10% of the worldwide population suffers from SI at one time or another, there are just tens of girls on the SI groups in the US and I can’t find any for the UK!  Tens of girls!!?  Girls with SI feel alone, feel shame and feel they cannot talk about it.  In fact I’m pretty sure countless don’t even know the expression such is the stigma of the condition.

They are not alone. You are not alone. So pick up the mantra of the US Fertility Week and if you know a friend or family member that is trying for a second child, lead her towards a friendly group, allow her to talk and help convince her she is not alone, she should not feel guilty and she should never give up hope.  #walktogether

Most couples will try anything!

So today, 22 January, is officially the day most New Years Resolutions are given up.  I’ve long since given up giving up things for the New Year as without a goal I’m not very good at maintaining them, so I guess I’d be one of the ones falling by the wayside today, had I tried in 2015.

It’s amazing how a goal can focus the mind and body and spur you on to change your habits and your attitude towards something you once loved.  When I knew we wanted another child it was the easiest thing in the world for me to adapt my diet, give up alcohol and keep myself fit and healthy. It was actually empowering as it was one of the few things I had control of.  It wasn’t an option to give up, to quit or to even ignore the advice to try to get my body in the best possible condition to nurture an embryo.

For some though, it’s still not so easy.  Even with the quest for another child so important to them, giving up alcohol, smoking or losing weight still proves really tricky.  Of course none of these will get you pregnant but to my mind, if anything could help improve the condition of my body to help get me pregnant and retain that pregnancy, then I wanted to be able to look into the whites of both mine and Jason’s eyes and say “I did all that I could do.”  When that still wasn’t enough, it hurt like hell, made me angry and for a moment I believed all the effort and sacrifice had been futile.  But of course, they weren’t.  They weren’t the be all and end all, but a healthy body is certainly a positive contributor to enabling it to function in the way it was designed for sure.

And so, to anyone teetering today, tempted by a glass of wine, extra sugar in their tea or a tasty cream bun, remember your end goal.  You can do it and you will feel good knowing you have done all that you could do, whatever your outcome, be it fertility or otherwise.  Take control, be strong in mind and body and don’t fall foul of the 22 January curse.  Good luck! xx

Wisdom in one so young

So this morning I sadly received a text from a friend whose second IVF cycle failed.  BFN as they say (well they say Big Fat Negative though admittedly the ‘F’ always meant something else in this house!)  I was so terribly sorry for her and angry at her misfortune and it took me right back to those dark days when I would just want to scream and shout at the lack of control I had over the result.

As I walked into the kitchen shortly afterwards, our 18 month old twins were tormenting Zac, soon to be 7 in just 15 days time and he was looking rather harrassed.  He was trying to complete a game of Fifa on his iPad and the babies were trying to grab it and were screaming in frustration at him.  I laughed at the chaos around me, and poor Zac’s plight, and said: “Zac, when you are all grown up, do you think you would like to have babies?”  I was totally surprised at his answer.

“Well I guess so, if I’m lucky.”  When I asked what he meant he simply said: “Well some people can’t have babies can they?  I might not be lucky enough to have babies.”

So grown up, so wise, so accurate.  I felt an instant pang of guilt.  Had I created a world around my young boy that had taught him one of life’s cruel lessons as such a tender age?  I know we had brought Zac along on our journey to extend the family and I was always careful when explaining to him why he didn’t have a brother or sister at the time, but it had clearly left a mark on him and made a lasting impression that I was ashamed I had not continued to nurture.

As I stewed in my own thoughts and Zac rescued his iPad from his now tantruming little brother he said: “I guess if I say my prayers and am a good boy I might have babies, but don’t worry Mummy, our babies haven’t put me off, they are only annoying sometimes!”

Jason and I laughed at his wisdom and his conclusion that the twins were only temporarily annoying.  Yet today, I’ll say my prayers for my friend, remembering how lucky we were to have ours answered and how extra lucky our babies are to have such a wonderful big brother in Zac.

In their shoes – and I don’t like it!

Each time my treatment failed or my period came, I became hardened to that pain and became deaf to my loved ones soothing words.

Their sympathetic repetitive phrases used to drive me mad and the helpless look on their faces as they struggled to find anything to say to help me was almost as painful as the despair itself.

I did feel sorry for them.  I did long for them not to feel any pain and often, once the realisation that we had been unsuccessful yet again had sunk in, I’d start to dread telling friends and family, knowing that they too would be hurt once more.

Recently, I was supporting someone I have known for years through her fertility treatment. This time, her fourth cycle, she seemed to be passing every hurdle brilliantly and she got further than she had ever got before.  And then she shared her tragic news.  It was not to be.

Whilst I have supported a number of girls through negative tests, miscarriages and failed cycles, this one hit me harder than any before.  I was convinced it was their time.  I had no words.  I literally did not know what to say to her and for the very first time I wanted to get on the phone to my Mum, brother, sister in law, big sister, friends and wider family and say how utterly sorry I was for everything I put them through.  For all the times I growled as they tried to find something to say.  For all the grunts when they said they were sorry for us.  For all the times I left the silence between us as they struggled to make me feel a little bit better.

It was horrid.  I felt useless.  I realised just how hard it had been for those around us.

In the end, after expressing my sorrow of course, I used the words with her that I found to be the only words that helped me. “It’s shit”

I found in saying these words to friends and family, it let them off the hook in trying to find clever words to fix the situation.  There are no words, there is no fix, the situation is just shit.  I knew it, they knew it and actually, bluntly acknowledging the fact always made me and them feel better.

They say swearing demonstrates a poor vocabulary, but when all else fails – who gives a shit?!

Forgive yourself this week

There’s literally no escaping it.  The news is everywhere.  There are follow up stories, features, in-depth analysis, write ups, opinions, photographs…….we have a Princess!  Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana arrived this week and the news was greeted with great joy around the world.  Well almost.

As a royalist all my life, I was excited to find out whether it was a boy or a girl and delighted to see William tenderly kiss the head of the baby Prince George, now newly promoted to the role of big brother.  He’s been hidden from cameras but has clearly grown up, walking now, pointing and becoming a proper little boy yet still Daddy’s baby boy.  No time has seemingly passed for Kate or Will to start to notice how quickly he is growing, how the age gap is widening or wondering what sort of big brother he would be.

This fact won’t have escaped the thousands of families out there who are doing just that with their own children.  Wondering if they will ever be able to give them a sibling, counting the passing months with the arrival of each period as the gap between any would be brother or sister gets bigger and bigger.  Facebook groups for Secondary Infertility were literally littered with women hurting from this news.

It’s not that they wish Kate ill for having a baby so quickly after George (or for looking so amazing just 10 hours after having a baby lol!) and it’s definitely not that they wish Kate had had to struggle in the way they are.

It’s just wish they were in her shoes (nude Jimmy Choos btw) and were finally celebrating a sibling.

It’s a gut wrenching anxiety that they cannot control that makes them feel so exasperated that they have no control over the outcome of their situation.  They simply can’t give a sibling to their child at the moment.  When others seem to pop them out all around them, the truth that they are seemingly unable to do what is so natural is torture.

It’s the fact that news of a royal sibling will undoubtedly prompt friends and relatives to start asking when they will be knocking out another.

It’s the way that whichever way they turn they simply cannot escape the news that there is a brother or sister for George.  Nappy ads on TV, bubble bath ads on social media, newspapers, magazines everyone talking about it…even the flippin Royal Navy did their own photo on Facebook to celebrate.  There’s simply no escape.

It’s the fact that thoughts and feelings are regularly entering their heads and hearts and they hate themselves for it.  Dark thoughts, feelings of jealousy, anger, deep envy and frustration.  They aren’t nasty people, don’t normally have such dark thoughts but such is the pain they can’t stop them and they hate that fact.

It’s the tears that have come, uncontrollably, without warning and with no specific trigger. They just fall, silent warm tears, mourning a child that doesn’t exist yet, prompted by a child someone else has been able to bring into the world.  It’s the release valve that they have, letting out some of the frustration, in big, wet tears that spill out when they least expect.

And above all, when they are trying their best to get their head down, get on with life, act normal and be positive, this is just another huge reminder of the battle they face.  The fight they feel like they are losing and how they feel they are letting their child down.  The feelings never leave them but sometimes life is bearable and they can get on with it, momentarily forget the pain and move on.  This week, they haven’t been able to.

So if you are currently feeling lost in a world that is moving on with new babies, whilst you struggle with Secondary Infertility take heart knowing that someone understands how you  feel, cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself for feeling the way you do this week and more than anything, realise that you are not alone.  #bestrong

Kim Kardashian – the perfect case study? Discuss.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2904061/I-want-baby-bad-s-not-happening-Kim-Kardshian-struggle-conceive-second-child-husband-Kanye-West.html

Could it possibly be that as well as being an icon for all things voluptuous for women, Kim Kardashian West is also in fact a celebrity who perfectly represents Secondary Infertility?  Just like the majority of other women desperate for a second child, I have no doubt at all that Kim has never actually searched the term ‘Secondary Infertility’ on Google, but having come across this recent article I’m pretty sure she is familiar with the pain, frustration and confusion associated with her desire, and apparent failure, to produce a sibling for North.

She personifies all that plays with the mind of any mother who wants another child and feels guilty for doing so, knowing she is already so lucky.  A good friend of mine, who has undergone three unsuccessful IVF attempts in trying for her second child, recently spoke to me about how she was reminding herself constantly how lucky she was to have her son and was focussing on all that was great about her life.  She already had so much, a child, loving husband, comfortable lifestyle, nice holidays and treats and so her list went on as she tried to put her desire into perspective.  She is “lucky”. And yet, deep down, she doesn’t feel lucky at all as she battles daily with the reminder that her longing for another child is unfulfilled.

Currently I have two friends battling the life limiting illness MND, I have a friend with four year old twins struggling through chemotherapy fighting breast cancer and I have a very dear friend whose beloved 21 month old baby girl is battling a brain condition that gives hourly cause for concern and worry.  When I think about any of these terrible situations, it’s easy to look at what you have and feel lucky for all that you are blessed with.  Each provides a good dose of perspective that gets you through any challenge.

And yet, I know only too well that when you are in the midst of the world of confusion and anger that is Secondary Infertility, amidst all the emotions that comes with it, perspective is one that is all too often lacking.  You just can’t find perspective in your situation.  Try as you might, knowing you should, you still find it very difficult to look at all you have and flick off that switch of desire for something else.

You find it almost impossible to find satisfaction in people around you, material goods, life experiences because the big, ugly, painful truth is you want and need something more. It is always there staring you in the face in any situation you find yourself in.  That pain isn’t so much that you don’t have a baby, it’s more that your body isn’t functioning as it should, or as everyone else’s is, to produce that child.  It’s the knowledge that often others are questioning why your body isn’t producing a child and the shame that comes with that.

What’s more, it is the burden of guilt that you carry knowing you have so much, you are so blessed in so many ways and you should be completely happy, but that your heart won’t allow it.

So for the woman who is adored and envied the world over, how big must her daily dose of guilt burger be right now?  A popstar husband, huge wealth and fame, loving family and of course her beautiful daughter, North, she appears to have it all.

How easy is it for anyone reading this article to dismiss her anguish with a “What more could she possibly want, she should be grateful for everything she’s got, greedy cow!”  How much is enough?  How little do you need to have for both you and others to think it’s OK to want more, to want another child?  The truth is, you could have nothing and still there will always be someone, probably yourself, who will say that you are lucky to be alive and should count your blessings for every breath.  The real truth is, no matter what life has thrown at you or blessed you with, you should never, ever feel guilty for wanting another child and there are thousands of women like you the world over.  You should not be ashamed.  You are not alone.   Good luck Kim.  x

Big love to all my friends and their families through all their battles and good luck to you all x