Talking about SI is a balancing act

helen davies, more love to give, secondary infertility matters

Helen Davies, More Love To Give launch at The Fertility Show.

So the last few months have been a blur juggling the family, running my business and doing the one thing that has taken over everything, launching ‘More Love To Give’.

Whilst the actual launch itself was a little nerve wracking initially, it was very quickly hugely rewarding and wonderful.  To have people, especially those you know well, suddenly read your inner most thoughts and feelings in a manuscript you’ve been working on for the last four years, is actually quite terrifying!  Once I knew someone had bought it, I was giddy yet skittish wondering where they were up to, what had they read, what did they think.  My husband quickly calmed me by reminding me that it doesn’t matter what people think, I have one goal to comfort SI sufferers and the rest is just my own opinion and experience.  I’m not going for a creative writing prize so I shouldn’t worry what people think as long as the books get into the hands of those that need that reassurance that they are not alone “and they’ll get that simply by holding it without turning a page!” he said.

I needn’t have worried anyway as the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  I have literally been bowled over by the response and in particular that so many who have bought it “couldn’t put it down!”.  In particular, one reader who is a member of the closed Facebook group, bought a copy on the launch day Tuesday, received it on Thursday and wrote the most gorgeous email on the Saturday night thanking me.  I was out for a Mother’s Day meal with my Mum, Auntie and cousin and had been at the Fertility Show all day, so it was a lovely time to receive such lovely feedback.

Here is a little bit of her message: “I just felt the need to send a message to say thank you. So much of the book rang true to me and the way you explained your feelings was exactly how I have been feeling. Whilst reading the book I have laughed (a little, and will never be able to buy a glitter bath bomb!!) and cried (a lot!!) but most of all I have finally felt like there is someone out there who understands exactly how I feel and who has put it into words in a way that I am struggling to do.”

When I forwarded the email to Jason he replied: “OMG I have tears in my eyes, wow this alone is why you wrote the book, if you never sell another copy that’s fine with me 😘  and that should be fine with you, you have helped another with our story, big love to you Helen Davies xxxx”

At that moment, it had all been worth it. She was just one, but she was all I ever hoped to make a difference to.  I didn’t know her, never met her but her response and the impact reading my story had had, made it all worthwhile.

Yet with every positive response, as well as giving a ‘job done’ feeling, it only spurs me on more.  How many more are there out there that need that reassurance, understanding and support.  I’ve reached one, let’s find another……and so I’m sure it will go on.

However, it’s not all been plain sailing.  I’ve had emails and comments online criticising me for speaking out on an subject that might upset some who are suffering with Primary Infertility.  They have said I should now shut up because I have three children – what do I know about struggling for a child?  They have said I’m disrespectful to anyone who still wants their first child.

I’ve drafted a blog reply but I’ll never post it.  What it all basically says is that you haven’t said anything online or in email that hasn’t been said at some time to my face.  You have completely misunderstood and clearly not read anything I have written.  In fact I do understand, more than most so much so, all I have ever written has purposefully been considerate of anyone struggling to conceive a first baby.  So the nasty notes haven’t upset me at all, in fact they have only served to demonstrate what SI sufferers have to put up with and why they are reluctant to speak up about their pain for fear of upsetting anyone still trying for their first.

However, I was knocked a little off course by a close friend who broke down when I showed her my book.  In short, life’s path hasn’t resulted in her having a family of her own.  In all the months I have been excitedly promoting the forthcoming book launch, I had no idea that my talking about Secondary Infertility was grinding her down, bringing to the surface all her hidden emotions about not ever having her own baby.

I know that the subject of Secondary Infertility can be very upsetting for someone who has yet to have a child, and that it is very difficult for them to understand the concept that fertility is fertility.  We are all on our own unique journeys and the circumstance may be different but the pain can be just as intense.

Yet in the cold light of day, holding my darling friend in my arms and she let out tears of grief, frustration and anger that had been pent up for way too long, I regretted ever speaking out, when indeed, I am blessed with three amazing children.  Never, ever, have I wanted to upset anyone.  I wouldn’t risk upsetting one person I loved, even to help the hundreds that I have, that I don’t know.  I felt dreadful.

She has reassured me that she is proud of me but that she can’t bear to read my story of Secondary Infertility when she feels so upset about her never having her one baby.  I get that.  I understand that completely.

So, whilst we both come to terms with our lives, journeys and difficulties this past week since we spoke, it has certainly made me think about the fine balance of the feel good factor in doing good and the harm doing good can do to those you feel so much for.

It is such a bloody shame that in talking about the pain Secondary Infertility causes, you risk inflicting pain on another group with another struggle.  In fact it’s shitty, it really is shitty.  It feels horrid, really horrid.

And yet, my conclusion after a week of soul searching is that, sometimes, if you choose your words and timing carefully, good should prevail and perhaps talking about and lifting the lid on Primary Infertility grief in the process can be just a cathartic.  Infertility sucks and only if our society talks about it , will we ever all feel understood, more supported and a lot less on our own.  Shying away from difficult subjects won’t help anyone.

Continuing to encouraging talking will never ever take away the pain of not having a baby you want, no matter what your situation is, but it might help relieve the tension and frustration which can only be a healthy thing for us all. I just hope I can find that right balance in the future.

#secondaryinfertilitymatters

 

Almost here……

So nearly four years on and my book is finally here.  Not launched yet, but we are now just a few days away.  Just a few tweaks to the distribution and then we’re off!

Today I went to the publishers to collect some copies ready for The Fertility Show and as Zac was off school poorly today, I had to take him along with me for the drive.  Somehow, it was meant to be that he should have a high temperature and be off school today.  Afterall, if he hadn’t been such a wonderful, beautiful boy, that meant the world to us, we would never have been on this crazy journey in the first place.  It felt like a nice full circle closing, (though of course grumpy pants didn’t think so and is actually all rather bored of ‘mummy’s flippin book’ at the moment!)

I’ve seen a draft version in print before and that was a thrilling moment and it was exciting to tear open a box with Jason and give him the first official copy – note to self, he’s not paid me yet!.  But perhaps the real ‘WOW’ moment for me today was seeing a stack of the books in the warehouse and the first palette all boxed up.  This was more than ‘my book’ it was a bloody great big pile of books all ready to be dispatched to anyone who wants to read it, all over the world.  My stomach lurched and it really was a moment to remember!  “Bloody Hell!”

Getting a book published had been on my Bucket List for a long long time.  It’s almost unbelievable and too much to take in to realise it can now be crossed off!  But this last couple of years has turned into much, much more than just trying to tick off an entry on my Bucket List.  It’s become less about my story and more about the story of Secondary Infertility.  Two words that I had never even heard off when I first added ‘book published’ on my Bucket List.  Two words I’d never heard off when I started, and ended, my fertility treatment.  Two little but significant words that changed my life forever.

Of course I’m excited about getting the book finally published, holding it, seeing what it actually looks like after all these years in the planning.  With regards people reading it however, I’m really quite nervous about looking into the whites of people’s eyes that I know, after they have read it, knowing they will have seen into the depths of my heart and soul  – it’s quite a frightening thought in someways.  The obvious excitement is also tinged with a little anxiety!

Yet truly, the most thrilling prospect today is sitting back at my desk and seeing all the feedback on Twitter and Facebook from couples (mostly girls) who want to read the story and who I know will feel comfort and understanding.  They are the ones it was written for.  They are the ones I imagined each night as I tapped away.  I wrote 102,000 words detailing our story but really I just wanted to say “you are not alone, you should not feel guilty, it’s OK to want another baby” over and over and over again – perhaps 102,000 times!  Yet that book wouldn’t have sold for sure, and writing about our most intimate moments and thoughts, seemed to be potentially a more interesting read.  We’ll certainly find out over the next few months!…….

So my excitement tonight is a little premature.  This is a personal achievement for me for sure but it’s not really crossing the finish line until the book is in the hands of someone who it was written for, who needs it, who will benefit from it.  When they put it down and sigh saying “I finally feel understood” and toast that freedom with a large G&T then I will really be able to WHOOP WHOOP!

To remind myself of the very last paragraph in the book:

And finally thank you to the publisher who turned me down and said “There isn’t a market for this book.” You lit a touch paper in me I never knew existed and prompted me to prove you wrong. There is unfortunately a huge market of couples across the world that will sadly appreciate, buy and benefit from this book and it is my intention to reach them. They may not know it yet, they may be unaware of the name of their condition, but without your rejection it would never have been my mission to tell them.

What I really wanted to finish that paragraph with was FUCK YOU!!  #fingersalute

 

 

Progress? I’m not sure

So what’s happening?  Well this all started with writing down my journey to help another couple faced with SI.  Then it became about achieving an ambition to have a book published which then turned into a mission to demonstrate to publishers just how big an audience is out there needing information on this topic.

It is now a crusade.  Having spent 2 years (whilst setting up a new business and running a family home) doing my bit to raise the profile of SI, I’m feel we’ve taken one step forward and two steps back.

So yesterday it was finally confirmed that SI would not feature at the Fertility Show in November because ‘it didn’t fit in’.  I was gutted.  We have recently determined that statistic that 1 in 3 of the 1 in 6 couples struggling with fertility already have a child – that’s 1 in 18 with Secondary Infertility.  It’s great to now know this stat, but it’s frustrating that people still don’t recognise the condition to give it focus.  It’s easy for them to say “Secondary Infertility is important” but still they don’t give it the attention and exposure it deserves and as a consequence the condition remains in the dark, as do sufferers.

My first problem with SI was simply that I didn’t know the name existed.  If we could just shout the name out from the rooftops more sufferers would become engaged.  If we could get them to identify with their own situation they would know where to seek more help.  That would be a huge start.

If we could help treatment providers and support networks to learn how to deal with SI sufferers and their unique situation it would help make SI “fit in” and therefore provide the appropriate information and support in clinics.

My messages are simple

Secondary Infertility is still Infertility

Sufferers are not alone, should not feel guilty and are not greedy

There are unique and specific challenges that need to be addressed for sufferers

More people in the Infertility profession need to recognise the condition

Communication and awareness must be improved

Next month I will be launching a brand new website with information and support specifically for SI sufferers.  A brand new online support and information portal that is UK based.  We may have not made it to the show in 2016 but boy oh boy, 2017 here we come!!…….

Between a rock and a hard place is a very hard place to be.

Having just been rejected by a publisher, following two rejections from agents last month, I am, as you can imagine, feeling a little flat.  Yet not because my book has been rejected, believe it or not (I mean JK Rowling apparently had her Harry Potter manuscript rejected 20 times), but because of the reasons being given.

They feel “‘More Love To Give’ is for a very niche audience”; no shit Sherlock!  This subject will of course only appeal to a very small audience, though on the positive side, thankfully there are fewer people who will want to read about struggling for a second baby than there are interested in wizards!  I can live with a ‘niche, specialist market’ reason.  Yet the next two leave me furious and frustrated: “There are very few searches on Amazon for Secondary Infertility” and “another memoir book about Secondary Infertility has only sold 29 copies in 10 years” 

I could have told them there will be very few searches for Secondary Infertility on Amazon given I went through four rounds of IVF and wrote a bloody book about it before I realised my situation had a title!  I Googled and searched for ‘IVF’, ‘infertility’ and ‘trying for a second baby’.  I never searched for Secondary Infertility because it is an area that is so over-looked and has such a stigma attached to it that nobody spoke to me about it, so I never knew where to find specific help – THAT’S WHY I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK TO HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WILDERNESS!

And as for having my future mapped out based on somebody else’s dismal attempt at writing and selling their poor excuse for a book, well that is just infuriating!  29 copies? Somebody wasn’t doing their job right were they to only sell 29 for goodness sake!  Or could it be, that just too little promotion was done to reach those people who would have loved to read the book but didn’t know where to look or how to search for it on Amazon??!!  Believe me, I know the market is a helluva lot bigger than 29!

Mr Chicken meet Mr Egg.  Mr Head meet Mr Brickwall.  

To date, I have 34 copies of my book reserved and I even took a reservation from the checkout girl at Tesco last week, who was cooing over my twins and talking about how she has been desperate for another child for years but her husband is happy with their son and refuses to have another. “Oh really?…”, said I.  Another copy reserved. Bish bosh.  And I haven’t even started yet!

I fully expected to get lots of rejections and I’m slightly sad but cool that I’m going through the process.  I was so close with this publisher this time.  One step on from an agent and they were really tempted, but it was just the stats and facts about the potential market and previous book’s performance that held us back.

It may be a small minority of people, let’s face it we won’t be knocking good ‘ol Lynda Bellingham off the bestsellers’ list, but perhaps that makes me more determined to get this topic talked about.  Those few people with so much more love to give have too few places to find support.  They deserve to have someone take a punt on them, and my book, and for the profile of ‘Secondary Infertility’ to be raised.

You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where to look for a signpost.

29 copies?!  Hmph!

Bravely does it…

So here I am finally getting ready to make my site go live and this feels like the scariest thing I have done in my life!

This book has taken three years to write and it is strange to think that I started to write before I even knew the term ‘secondary infertility’ existed. In fact, I started whilst going through our first cycle so that was even before I had any reason to think I would need a term to describe our situation!

I am pretty sure that had I known about our journey and the four attempts before I started the IVF treatment, I’m not sure I would have ever taken the first step. It was a daunting experience but one I embarked on fully expecting to get pregnant first time. I hadn’t anticipated the darker side of failed attempts. Looking back, whilst this was naive, it was also my saviour, for it made me get on with the treatment and have a go. It was a long, painful journey that would not have been so easy to start had I known all that I was in for over the next 14 months.

And yet, sat here now, about to launch my blog and launch my Facebook page, this feels like the scariest journey I have ever made in my life.

Sharing my thoughts, our most intimate moments, not to mention my possible grammatical errors, all seems pretty daunting.

And then I remember that couple on the sofa that have been in my thoughts whilst writing every chapter. Somebody, somewhere, feels guilty for wanting another child and ashamed that they feel so desperate for a child when they know they are blessed to already have one, or more.

They are my saviour right now. For if sharing our story can convince just one couple that it’s alright to feel the want for more children, that you’re not greedy and you should not feel guilty, then that is all the motivation I need to press ‘go live’. It doesn’t feel so scary afterall.