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

 

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.

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

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.

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

Zephyr’s playmates are finally on the way!

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/Julia-Bradbury-im-44-pregnant-4984899

Julia Bradbury was so desperate to “provide a playmate” for her son Zephyr she underwent 5 rounds of IVF and at age 44 is now expecting two playmates, twins!  “It’s a lovely thing to be able to give that gift of a sibling, Zeph’s very excited about becoming a big brother.”

Enjoying, loving and watching your child grow can be such a huge motivator to have another baby.  Your desire to provide a full and happy life for that first child leads you to want to provide a larger, loving family, a buddy, a sibling.  It’s a different desire to wanting a first but it’s an instinctive drive all the same.

That feeling is no less painful, but it’s a lot less understood.  Let’s hope little Zephyr is thrilled with his new playmates and Julia’s desire is finally fulfilled.

So near and yet so far

In the six hours since the MLTG page went live on the world wide web, it already has 50 likes, 14 shares and I have 4 orders for my book!  How cool is that?  And yet it is the 3 comments made on the page that mean the most.  Sitting for hundreds of hours pouring my heart out into the laptop, often felt like the loneliest place on the planet.  I will never forget the moment I read a paragraph in Zita West’s Guide to IVF (bible) that mentioned existing parents often had a feeling of guilt.  At last somebody understood.  That was me!  I was shocked as I read the words but I was also immensely comforted.  I’ll also remember the shock at learning that our situation actually had a name ‘Secondary Infertility’. At last I felt ‘defined’, part of a group and suddenly not so alone.  To receive feedback today from 3 people who are currently in a similar situation and have thanked me for sharing my story is one of the strangest feelings I have ever felt.  In the words of one: “I honestly can’t relate to that enough.  You have captured how I’m sure a million women feel.  At a daunting yet exciting time this had given me so much positivity for the future.”  I have always dreamed of getting this book published but tonight, this means more to me than any Amazon listing.  I know how she feels, she now feels understood.  She doesn’t feel so alone and I hope she can start to shake off a little of the guilt she has been carrying round.  Yet I feel sad that despite launching on the world wide web, this friend lives just 10 minutes away.  We live so near, yet when you are struggling alone, we live so far away.  Let’s talk more.  Let’s share more.  Let’s drop the shame. x

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.