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

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.

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!

Let’s Remember to Talk x

From Remembrance Day and National Duvet Day to Stoptober and Movember, there’s always a day or week set aside to remember, celebrate or raise awareness of one thing or another.  It is really pleasing to see so many poppies popping up at the moment, in fact Zac was really proud to buy his and pin it on his jumper in the playground this morning.  I’m a great supporter of the Poppy Appeal and all it represents.  Yet there has been another significant event for me last week, Fertility Awareness Week.  More than 3.5 million people in the UK alone experience fertility problems when trying for children – that’s one in six couples.  When you stop to think, that’s not all couples, that’s one in six of those trying for children, so that’s a heck of a lot.  More than I thought in fact.

Launching my book’s website the weekend of the start of Fertility Awareness Week, to be honest, wasn’t a complete coincidence.  Whilst it wasn’t something I felt ready to ride on the back of, as I am still a little way off publishing, in my own private way it was important for me to help with one of the main aims, and that was to get more people talking about fertility issues.

This last week it has been terrific to see so many interviews and features about options available for people, details about the impact infertility can have on people’s lives and honest interviews with well known faces who are brave enough to talk about their journey, to millions of readers or viewers.

“I struggled to conceive my first child and I needed fertility drugs.  I had a much harder struggle to conceive a second child and had four rounds of IVF.  I was very fortunate and we now have three gorgeous, healthy children as our fourth round of IVF produced twins.  I couldn’t do it alone.  I needed help.  I had IVF.”

There, I’ve said it.  I can say it now.  I find myself saying it often these as I know it brings comfort to many people who are in the situation we were in and I know the comfort I found from speaking to others at that time.  Yet there was a time where I felt shame, guilt, failure and a deep, dark feeling of bereavement at times for something I felt I’d lost, my capability as a woman.  In those days I could never have said those words.

Like a crutch for a broken leg, an anti-inflammatory for a bruised muscle or anti-biotic for an dental abscess – sometimes other parts of the body need some help too and there should simply be no shame in talking about it.  On a par with depression, infertility should not be a taboo and we should encourage a society that embraces those that sometimes need our support as their crutch through a difficult time. That crutch can sometimes be just talking without judgement.

So well done to all those who encouraged people to talk about their fertility situations last week and long may it continue beyond 2014’s Fertility Awareness week!  Let’s talk.