I don’t want you to go to school either darls!

So my twins have started ‘big’ school…when they look anything but big!  I’m always saying “what a big boy” and “you’re such a big girl”, but when you put a school uniform on them, even the tiniest possible size, they seem to shrink back down to being your tiny little ones again.  My little girl Anya is swamped by her cardigan, even she says it’s “stupid”, she seems too tiny to be wearing a school uniform.

For me this time the heartbreak has been huge.  Saying goodbye to such a busy and all consuming chapter in my life and waving off my precious babies to the next stage in their exciting lives.  It’s hit me hard and especially when Anya has cried and screamed every day, in fact kicked the teacher twice!  I can’t believe they are four and a half, can’t believe my tiny 2lb miracles are now ready for school at all!  I just want to hold them a little longer, extend this chapter and I suppose feel them in my arms needing me like they used to.

I was no different when Zac started school and I can’t believe he’s now in year 5.  I felt like I was handing my baby over the state and I was losing him.  I was heartbroken but unlike Anya, he never looked back and took to it like a duck to water, which perhaps made it worse.  I wanted him to miss me and need me!

And yet, that pain was different.  I was determined not to make a big deal of the huge milestone my twins going to school was given their prematurity and bumpy start to life because right now, four and half years on, we are a normal family, they are happy healthy kids and I am just like any other mummy who’s kid is starting school.  I avoided the reference to their start and it felt nice to be like a ‘normal’ mummy for once.

What I did feel was that my pain was wholly different to that of those mummies whose first born was starting and who were desperate for another child to fill that void.  Whose ‘baby’ was flying and leaving an empty nest when their mummy was desperate and unable to fill the vacancy.  Who had watched every milestone and month pass by hoping to conceive at least, never mind give birth, by September so they didn’t feel bereft.  Who had to leave nursery or pre-school yet didn’t feel ready to leave that life, that routine or group of carers.  Who was watching other mummies in the playground try to get their child into school whilst battling a feisty toddler or juggle a new baby when their arms were left empty.  Who just wanted to scream let me have my baby back, I’m not ready for this experience to end.  Who cried a million tears silently, on her own, not just at the child starting school but at the child who she loved but had lost or not yet met.

I was that mummy when Zac started school.  It was an all consuming experience that too few could understand.  It had so many layers, was so complex and was hugely painful.  Life was racing on fast forward and I couldn’t keep up.  I was supposed to have another baby by then.  I had lost the opportunity on too many occasions and life wasn’t panning out as I’d planned or hoped for.  And it hurt.

This week, Facebook was filled with mummies tormented by their little one starting school, with a few able to admit the pain and hurt at their loneliness and it was heartbreaking to read.

I have no real effective words of comfort, advice or tips on how to cope in these weeks ahead.  It’s tough enough for me with the twins starting knowing I no longer yearn for a child, but I know it’s doubly tough for you with the empty void you also feel, the frustration that haunts you and the feeling that people don’t understand the depth of your hurt.

But I do.  And there are others who do too.  Find them, talk to them, open up and share your feelings.  Be kind to yourself.  Cut yourself some slack and squeeze that baby with all your might when you strip off that “stupid”, over-sized uniform and tuck them up tonight. x

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Secondary Infertility Matters

“Can I please share your fertility story?”

Secondary Infertility MattersSo much has happened in the last week, I honestly feel exhausted.  After working till the early hours for weeks on end, last Thursday my new website finally went live.  It was supposed to launch today, just a day before National Fertility Week UK, but after Fertility Network UK launched my films on their YouTube channel and Hull IVF Unit released their press release about their new campaign #DareToShare that featured a quote from myself, I had to rush the launch through in case the web address featured.

At the same time as amending PayPal coding and proof reading my pages I was racing too and from the IVF Unit juggling interviews with Viking FM, KCFM and ITV Calendar News!  After weeks of preparation it was all over and done in a flash and I was talking about the new site staring down the camera of the regional news!

But it was all good.  It was all hugely positive and just one of many steps towards raising the profile of Secondary Infertility.  So far, I’ve not personally promoted the website just yet, I’ll be putting it on my Facebook page later tonight, but already, just from promoting the YouTube film the feedback has been fantastic.   As I write, the video has been shared 17 times by my friends and family, how terrific is that?!

One asked: “Is it OK to share?” which was lovely as I’m a stickler for Facebook etiquette and respecting privacy but I was like “hell yeh! share away as much as you can, that’s why I’m doing it!”

The response in their comments has also been fabulous and very rewarding, though it has actually got me thinking ‘why on earth have I taken all this on after the life we’ve put ourselves through the last 5 years?’  I’m still wondering now TBH.  But, what I do know, when I’m not trying to analyse myself, is that it’s the most natural instinct in me right now, behind my family.

I don’t think you ever forget an experience that took you to the brink.  That was Primary then Secondary Infertility for me.

I don’t ever think you forget a comment that stung you.  That was the reply from a publisher who said there wasn’t market for SI books because people didn’t search for them on Amazon for me.

I don’t think you can forget other people who are trapped in horrid position you have been fortunate to have escaped.  They are those still trying for a second child feeling guilty and alone.

Two words people have used a lot over recent days have been brave and inspiring.  They make me very proud but I’ve never felt brave, I certainly don’t mind sharing my story because I know the huge value it has compared to any embarrassment I may have.  Inspiring is an interesting word as it generally means you encourage others to do the same – I hope I do.

If more people who have suffered Secondary Infertility, or even Primary Infertility shared their stories highlighting the pain, the background to the treatment, their coping mechanisms, their successes or how they handle failure, the more people will feel comfortable if they are suffering. We who have been through it must share our experience to ‘normalise’ and ‘de-stigmatise’ fertility treatment.

I hope this feedback continues to grow as promotion of the website, Youtube channel and Facebook page start to grow over forthcoming months.

There was one comment however that could have stopped me in my tracks and say “job done”.

It was from a girl in Pennsylvania who messaged me to say “Thank you for sharing your video. As I sit in my car crying, it was so comforting to know that I’m not alone. Thank you”  I know how much it meant to her because there was many I time I too had been sat alone crying.  I remember the very first time I identified with Secondary Infertility – it was so so utterly refreshing to recognised the situation I was in and know it had a name, I was part of a group of people, and realise it wasn’t just me!

Whilst I wish there was no more ‘girls in Pennsylvania’, I know there are hundreds we need to reach, so again, I say in answer to your question: “Hell Yeh!  You share the ass off my story and let’s do this together!”

 

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!

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.

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